School Policy and Environment: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000

By Small, Meg L.; Jones, Sherry Everett et al. | Journal of School Health, September 2001 | Go to article overview

School Policy and Environment: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000


Small, Meg L., Jones, Sherry Everett, Barrios, Lisa C., Crossett, Linda S., Dahlberg, Linda L., Albuquerque, Melissa S., Sleet, David A., Greene, Brenda Z., Schmidt, Ellen R., Journal of School Health


The school environment contains both physical and psychosocial dimensions.[1] The physical environment includes the school buildings and school grounds; conditions such as noise, temperature, and lighting; and biological and chemical agents. The psychosocial environment includes physical and psychological safety and support for students and staff. Students learn best in schools with safe, supportive, and disciplined environments. Effective policies can help create a safe, positive physical and psychological school environment, prevent injuries from occurring at school,[2,3] and prevent school failure, substance use, and violence.[4] Creating and maintaining a safe and positive school environment also is consistent with two of the Healthy People 2010 objectives for the nation.[5] Objective 8-20 is to "increase the proportion of the Nation's primary and secondary schools that have official school policies ensuring the safety of students and staff from environmental hazards, such as chemicals in special classrooms, poor indoor air quality, asbestos, and exposure to pesticides." Objective 27-11 is to "increase smoke-free and tobacco-free environments in schools, including all school facilities, property, vehicles, and school events."

SELECTED FEDERAL SUPPORT AND RELATED RESEARCH

The school environment is regulated by laws and policies instituted at the national, state, district, and school levels. For example, at the national level, the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994[6] requires that states pass, as a condition of funding eligibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, laws that require mandatory one-year expulsions for students who bring a firearm to school. The Pro-Children Act of 1994 prohibits smoking within any indoor facility that receives federal funds and provides routine or regular kindergarten, elementary, or secondary education services to children.[8] The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994 provides federal funds for programs to prevent violence in and around schools and strengthen programs aimed at preventing the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.[9] These laws and other federal laws are augmented by state, district, and school laws and policies designed to promote a school environment conducive to student learning.

Some federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations provide recommendations for schools on reducing violence and unintentional injuries and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs among students while in school or engaged in school-sponsored activities.[3-5,10-22] These recommendations include how to recognize the early warning signs of potential violence by troubled children;[4,10] design and implement school safety plans and effectively use security technologies;[11,12] provide protection from environmental hazards, poor indoor air quality, and exposure to pesticides;[5] and reduce injuries on playgrounds or during transportation and school activities.[3,21,22] Guidelines on how to create school environments that are tobacco free[13,15-17,20] and what schools can do to address drug use, possession, and sales on school property also are available.[18-20]

The present study expands upon three earlier national studies. The first School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS), conducted in 1994 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provided some information about state-, district-, and school-level policies addressing tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drug use, and violence.[23-26] A second study, conducted in 1997 by the US Department of Education, examined actions schools take when students are caught fighting; possessing or using weapons; or possessing, distributing, or using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.[27] That study also examined zero-tolerance policies and school efforts to ensure safety and promote discipline. The third study, conducted in 1998, examined school activities to prevent or reduce delinquency, drug use, or other problem behavior including disciplinary actions and school security measures. …

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