Dysconscious Policing: A Critical Content Analysis of School Resource Officer Training Materials

Jamie Utt


With more than 30,000 police stationed in U.S. schools, school resource officers (SROs) are a grossly understudied phenomenon. Advocates for police in schools highlight the ways they can improve safety for all students despite the racialized legacy of policing in the United States. Few scholars have studied the racialization of police in the field of education or the educational ramifications of SROs on students. This paper offers findings from a Critical Race Content Analysis of school resource officer training materials from one state in the U.S. southwest. The analyzed text is the training manual for any SRO who enters schools in the state. López’s (2003) analysis of race-neutral discourses in education and King’s (1991) notion of dysconscious racism guide the analysis of the training materials. Coding yielded 73 individual references to race or to racially coded content, which were categorized into five themes for analysis: (a) overt mentions of race and ethnicity (n=7), (b) universalizing student experiences (n=30), (c) operative Whiteness (n=16), (d) criminalizing students (n=15), and (e) opportunities for positive development (n=5). Themes are described and analyzed. Implications for further training are offered, and questions are raised about the role police ought to play in schools.


School Resource Officers; Critical Race Theory; Policing; Dysconscious Racism; Race Neutrality; Schools; Racism

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