Evaluating Police Presence and Police Stops in Schools: Outcomes for Adolescent Mental Health
Police and school partnerships have grown exponentially over the past 20 years. However, research examining the impact of school policing has primarily focused on aspects of school safety. The current study extends the literature beyond feelings of safety to consider the mental health outcomes of school policing on adolescents. I examine whether the presence, being stopped, and witnessing stops by police at school are associated with adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms and how school connectedness and race/ethnicity moderate these associations. Data were obtained from the most recent wave of data collection in the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (FFCWS). Participants included 3,346 youth who were, on average, 15 years old. OLS regression analyses were repeated for depression and anxiety symptoms separately and included main effects for each contextual variable. Results indicated that police presence in schools was not significantly associated with depression and anxiety symptoms. In comparison, across all models, being stopped by police and witnessing police stops at school were significantly associated with depression and anxiety symptoms. Simple slope analyses of significant interactions revealed that race/ethnicity moderated associations between police presence, police stops, witnessing police stops at school, and adverse mental health outcomes. Additionally, greater reports of school connectedness moderated associations between being stopped by police at school and depression symptoms.