Law enforcement exits East High School after responding to a swatting hoax, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Denver. Earlier in the day, Denver police received a phone call that falsely advised of an active shooter at the school. (Jeremy Sparig, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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Tickets and arrests of students at 13 Denver Public Schools campuses were lower when police officers were not stationed inside the school buildings than when they were, according to state and local data from the 2019-20 and 2022-23 school years. 

The data backs a key criticism of school resource officers, which is that they increase tickets and arrests and feed the school-to-prison pipeline.

But when SROs were reintroduced on those 13 campuses for the last two months of the 2022-23 school year, after a shooting inside East High School, the monthly average of tickets and arrests did not go up, according to data from the Denver Police Department.

East High student Stella Kaye has a theory as to why. 

When Kaye, a 16-year-old junior, thought about the data on SROs, “I thought about, Wow, they probably know how many people don’t want them to be there,” she said. “So if they start arresting kids left and right, it would not look good for the police or DPS. It’s almost like they had to be on their best behavior. It’s like they were put in their place a little bit.”

It’s a theory shared by parents, students, advocates, and elected officials on both sides of the issue. Those who support the return of SROs point to the data as a hopeful sign that students won’t be overpoliced. Those opposed to SROs are skeptical that two months of data, at a time when school safety was closely watched, proves that anything will be different.

When school starts in Denver next month, SROs will be back at the same 13 high school campuses. The data from the 2019-20 and 2022-23 school years provides a window — albeit a limited one — into what parents and students can expect.