From locked doors to armed guards: UB’s Finn organizes national school security conference

A school safety officer and his vehicle parked in front of a school building.

Release Date: October 8, 2018 This content is archived.

Jeremy Finn.

Jeremy Finn

“Research does not show that a high-security school has improvements in student behavior or safety. In fact, some students feel less safe in a high-security environment. ”
Jeremy Finn, Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology and Quantitatie Method
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The effects and effectiveness of school security measures will be the topic of a national conference organized by Jeremy Finn, professor in the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education, and Timothy J. Servoss, associate professor of psychology at Canisius College.

The conference, to be held Oct. 21-23 in Washington, D.C., will bring some of the country’s current school security experts together to evaluate the variety of security measures in practice in the nation’s schools.

“Security measures have been burgeoning at tremendous costs to schools and districts, adding great financial strain to those who can afford them the least,” says Finn, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology and Quantitative Method, and Educational Leadership and Policy. “

Nationwide, Finn says, a 2017 Gallup poll has shown these investments spike precipitously every time a major violent event occurs.

“Despite these high costs, research on the contribution of security practices to school and student safety, misbehavior, discipline and academic performance is sorely lacking, and sometimes even paints a negative picture,” says Finn, who is quoted frequently in national media on his areas of expertise, including class size, and student engagement and dropping out.

“Research does not show that a high-security school has improvements in student behavior or safety. In fact, some students feel less safe in a high-security environment. And until recently, research has not shown that security measures lead to improvements in students’ academic success,” he says.

“The absence of a solid research base makes it impossible to know the balance of positive and negative effects of the investments on schools or students.”

Bringing together 25 educators, researchers and practitioners — many of them nationally known for their work in school security — the conference will also highlight the school security disparity between schools with large minority populations and those whose student populations are predominantly white.

“Research indicates that security measures follow the same pattern of racial inequities as suspensions or expulsions,” Finn explains. “For example, African-American students are about six times as likely as white students to walk through a metal detector when entering school. The percentage of black students in a school is the single highest factor associated with high security in schools, over and above the amount of misbehavior or crime.”

The conference of researchers, advocates, school security personnel and school administrators expects to produce several publicly available reports that:

  • Summarize “what is known” from research and experience about security measures in American schools, and also their connection with racial/ethnic disparities.  
  • Identify gaps in our knowledge about security measures and produce an agenda for further research to increase understanding of the effects of school security measures on school personnel, students and parents.
  • Produce a report for policy makers, including school boards, and state and federal legislators, about what we do and do not know about the positive and negative impacts of school security measures on all stakeholders — students, parents, and school and district staff.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in government data about security measures.

For more information about the conference, contact Finn or Servoss.

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