Proximity to police-involved killings affects students’ school attendance, GPA, emotional well-being, and likelihood to both graduate from high school and attend college; and “the effects are driven entirely by black and Hispanic students in response to police killings of other underrepresented minorities.” These are the findings of recent research from Harvard’s Desmond Ang.
Particularly startling is that “police killings of unarmed individuals generate negative spillovers that are roughly twice as large as killings of individuals armed with a gun or other weapon.” Ang notes that this finding is part of a pattern suggesting “the educational spillovers of officer-involved killings may be driven in part by perceptions of injustice surrounding these events.”
The research combines two data sets. One includes students’ addresses and other individual characteristics for an anonymous large, urban Southwestern school district. The second combines “incident-level information on the universe of officer-involved killings in the surrounding county.” Using these, Ang calculates each student’s proximity to the police-involved killing over a period from 2002 to 2016.
The findings “suggest that, on average, each officer-involved killing in the County caused three students of color to drop out of high school.” The paper is part of a significant body of evidence that criminal violence has impacts on students that affects their well-being and, subsequently, their economic mobility.
This important research underlines what so much of what NCAN members have seen and voiced, not just this spring but for years: We cannot look at college access and attainment in a vacuum and instead must account for the systemic societal inequities that are complicated, interrelated, pervasive, pernicious, and, ultimately, deeply harmful to students.