School Violence: Associations with Control, Security/Enforcement, Educational/Therapeutic Approaches, and Demographic Factors

By Barton, Ashlee | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, May 2009 | Go to article overview

School Violence: Associations with Control, Security/Enforcement, Educational/Therapeutic Approaches, and Demographic Factors


Barton, Ashlee, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Contributing Editor's Note: In this column, Crisis Management in the Schools Interest Group members summarize recent crisis management publications. The first article summarized examined the association between different violence reduction/prevention programs and school crime and disruption. The second article summarized examined factors that impact the severity of children's PTSD reactions following traffic accidents. The final paper offers recommendations for disaster mental health research.

A recent study by Nickerson and Martens (2008) examined the extent to which three different approaches to violence reduction and prevention were associated with school crime and disruption. The three factors were (a) control, (b) security/enforcement, and (c) therapeutic/educational approaches. The authors attempted to empirically differentiate between these approaches while accounting for demographic variables that may account for crime and disruption. The article begins by discussing the importance of implementing empirically based, reliable approaches to violence prevention and reduction, as well as the importance of collecting outcome data when implementing new approaches. Presently, many schools are implementing violence prevention approaches that lack empirical research. Nickerson and Martens provide examples of educational/therapeutic approaches that have recently been incorporated into schools, while also outlining the benefits and criticisms of such approaches. To contribute to the research, the authors conducted a survey study using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) for the 1999-2000 school year.

Participants included a nationally representative sample of principals from public elementary, middle, secondary, and combined schools. The original sample of respondents was stratified by demographic variables including school level, location, enrollment size, percentage of minority students, and geographic region and then divided into four samples to allow for multiple analyses. The SSOCS was used to assess school policies and procedures; violence prevention programs; training; perceived limitations in efforts to reduce violence; violent, criminal, and disruptive incidents; availability and use of specific disciplinary actions; and student, neighborhood, and school characteristics for the 1999-2000 school year. School crime was assessed by respondents' reports of the number of violent deaths (i.e., suicides andhomicides), rape, attempted rape, physical attack, fights, threats of physical attack, robbery, possession of weapons, and possession or use of alcohol or drugs. Disorder was assessed by respondents ratings of how often problem behaviors such as racial tension, bullying, verbal abuse of teachers, and gang activities occurred.

Four factors were originally considered as approaches to violence reduction and prevention: (a) control, (b) security/ enforcement, (c) educational/therapeutic, and (d) crisis plans. Control was described as the school's attempts to control behavior through the use of metal detectors, strict dress codes, clear book bags, and corporal punishment. Security/ enforcement included practices associated with student supervision through the use of security cameras, the presence of law enforcement in the schools, and enforcing rules through discipline (e.g., suspension). Educational/therapeutic approaches were considered as formal violence prevention programs, teacher trainings, and parent involvement. Crisis plans were described as procedures in place to deal with a variety of crises. The crisis plans factor was excluded because it was considered to be a preparedness strategy rather than an approach to reduce and prevent school crime and disruption.

Results indicated that demographic variables account for the most substantial variance in disruption and crime compared to preventative and intervention approaches. …

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