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My School or Our School?: The Effects of Individual Versus Shared School Experiences on Teacher Perceptions of Safety

NCJ Number
Journal of School Violence Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 33-55
Staci D. Roberts; Pamela Wilcox; David C. May; Richard R. Clayton
Date Published
23 pages
The study examined teacher perceptions of school safety by investigating both individual-level and school-level factors that contribute to those perceptions of safety.
Results found that teacher perceptions of school safety were largely a function of individual experiences at school, and varied substantially across schools, and that school-level characteristics accounted for part of the contextual variation; individual perceived disorder and individual perceived school efficacy were stronger predictors. Findings suggest that improving the social and physical environmental conditions of schools through such measures should reduce teacher fear or risk by enhancing individual perceptions of the environment. The perceptions of the social, physical, and organization climate in which the teachers work were important for understanding how teachers assessed safety in their school; especially important factors that influenced teachers’ perceptions of safety in the school included: how much support they felt from the administration; the quality of their relationships with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators; their ability to give input into how the school was operated on a daily basis; and the incivilities they encountered within the school. Though individual variation was important, the multilevel models reveled that safety perceptions also varied substantially across schools. In particular, school disorder had a strong contextual effect; school-level disorder resulted in a negative perception of school safety. The perception of incivility among the collective teachers is important in understanding cross-school differences in teacher perceptions of safety; teachers might share information and feelings about disorder, allowing a contextual effect to exist above and beyond the effect of individual perceptions of incivility. Effective strategies for addressing teacher perceptions of safety might include improving school efficacy, through team-building and teacher support programs, and optimizing the school physical environment, possibly by implementing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) techniques. The sample consisted of teachers in Kentucky high schools. Data were collected as part of the Rural Substance Abuse and Violence Project (RSVP). Tables, references