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A Theoretical and Empirical Assessment of Authoritarianism’s Effects on Behavior, Attendance, and Performance in Urban School Systems

NCJ Number
Contemporary Justice Review Volume: 24 Issue: 2 Dated: 2021 Pages: 197-217
Date Published
February 2021
21 pages

Since authoritarian school safety measures are common in efforts to promote safety in schools, the current study examined the effects of student engagement with authoritarianism in schools, using self-report survey data from students (N= 359) across eight high schools in one large, urban school district in the greater New York City area.


With consideration of various frameworks for conceptualizing authority in schools, authoritarianism in schools was operationalized by student self-reports of engagement between two time points in (1) random sweeps for contraband; (2) surveillance cameras; (3) metal detector searches; and (4) interaction with authority (i.e., school police). Findings suggest that those who have increased engagement with authoritarianism in schools throughout the year report increased occurrence of engagement in maladaptive behavior. Concurrently, exposure to authoritarianism over the course of one school year was associated with student behavior, academic performance, and attendance in ways that vary for different racial and ethnic groups. Findings call for educators and administrators to consider and continually assess the effects of authoritarian practices on student performance when developing and implementing safety protocol in their schools. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: February 1, 2021