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High School Students’ Perceptions of Police Vary by Student Race and Ethnicity: New Research Findings

By Jonathan Nakamoto, Rebeca Cerna, Alexis Stern


In response to ongoing public concern about violence on K–12 school campuses, many schools around the United States are partnering with local law enforcement to increase the presence of officers in schools. However, a police presence, whether at school or in the community, may not make all young people feel safe.

This brief presents data from a large sample of high school students, in eight diverse, low‐income communities, who completed the California Healthy Kids Survey in the 2017/18 school year. The analyses highlighted in this report explore how students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds experience the presence of police in their community and in their school.

A key finding: Overall, compared to their White peers, students of color, especially Black students, had less positive perceptions of police in both instances, although this disparity was smaller in relation to students’ perceptions about police in their school.

Community members, schools, and local law enforcement departments across the country can use this and other data to understand and address students’ disparate experiences of law enforcement so that all young people feel safer in their schools and communities.

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Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2019
Format: PDF
Pages: 7
Publisher: WestEd