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Review 3 of "Perceptions of School Resource Officer Roles in Exemplar Programs in Virginia"

...Qualitative...Criminology

Published onDec 22, 2020
Review 3 of "Perceptions of School Resource Officer Roles in Exemplar Programs in Virginia"

Vote: Reject


[For votes to count, referees must reasonably explain why they voted as they did. Thus, please explain your vote. If you voted to publish pending minor changes, specify each change, why it is needed, and, possibly, how it should/could be done.]

The paper presents data from interviews with 18 school resource officers (SRO), their supervisors and school leaders to explore which roles they assign to SRO’s. I’ve read the paper with interest and the topic is highly relevant. There are some major issues that make it so that I’m, unfortunately, inclined to advice to reject the piece:

  • It is a pity that the paper is purely oriented towards practice and lacks a theoretical framework (in that sense, it is perhaps a better fit for a policy/practice-oriented journal)

  • It is basically data telling: describing, thematically grouping (per role assigned to SRO’s) and synthesizing what the interview participants say. The analysis is descriptive (not in the sense of ‘thick description’ but, again, data telling). I also missed some critical reflection: for instance, the fact that the officers say on Zoom that arresting students and sending them to prison is not their priority (which is not really surprising), this is not questioned or contextualized, but taken for face value.

  • One of the explicit requirements of the journal is for papers to provide one or more original ideas created through the analysis of data (i.e. tells us something we didn’t know, hadn’t thought of, or contrary to what we assumed to be true) and make a theoretical or conceptual contribution. A theoretical framework is missing and the findings do not really show anything new. The authors describe different roles of SRO’s and state that there are potential difficulties/issues in balancing these roles. Although the articulation of the roles is interesting, this difficult balancing of conflicting/ambiguous positions seems rather obvious. The authors conclude themselves: “as suggested by others (references), these roles often overlap”. There are some findings that the authors call ‘surprising’ (e.g. the data did not demonstrate broad support for the informal mentor/positive role model promoted in Virginia SRO material), which is interesting but this is not elaborated/theorized/explained and I hesitate to describe this as original/innovative insights à these are findings that deviate from what was expected (in the program materials.

  • Implications for practice are relevant but implications for research are noted briefly and superficially (saying that more research is needed) and the conclusion is very short and generic.

  • The paper seems to adhere to quantitative language and reasoning: ‘generalizable’, ‘close-ended questions may have elicited different findings’, ‘not enough interviews included’. Yes, the sample is small, but I’d say the issue is with the richness/depth of the data, not necessarily with the number of participants.

There are some minor points that’d need to be addressed if the paper would proceed to publication:

  • Some important parts of the (educational) context are not explained, which are less familiar to non-US readers. For instance: what are exemplar programs? K-12 setting? Triad model?

  • Important arguments lack precision: e.g. stating that ‘SRO’s are portrayed in positive and negative lights’ without much elaboration and the opportunity to critically question the rationale of SRO’s in the first place.

  • The introduction promises that best practices will be identified that ‘could be shared with existing and new SRO programs’ but this is only addressed very vaguely in the final parts.

  • The literature review section ‘SROs in the United States’ is interesting, informative and opens up space for critical academic discussion, but it is very short and I wanted to know more.

  • Table 1 takes a lot of space and does not add anything vital to the paper’s content. It is a general description of the role and affiliation of the interviewees.

  • The methods section is well-structured and written but some things remain unclear: why were the interviews conducted via Zoom and what are possible limitations thereof? Differences/limitations of two joint interviews (especially because the sample is not large, the interviews rather short à 21-41 minutes, and the quotes rather generic and lack depth and detail).

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