Term Paper: School Culture on School Safety

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[. . .] According to the National School Safety Center (1995) creating safe schools is about commitment. That does not mean only commitment from the principal, or from the teachers, or from the students. Accomplishing such a goal requires families, schools, and community leaders to talk about the quality of the educational environment they want to provide for youth and together develop the strategies that will produce the desired results.

This type of cohesive commitment is the only real way that schools can be made safer, as one person cannot do it alone, and communities must express the desire to make schools safer and therefore give the students a better school life and more hope for the future. The Center also suggests that achieving these goals requires leaders to assess where they are, plan where they want to be, implement a series of strategies to bridge the difference, and evaluate their progress.

Statement of the Problem

Clearly, the violence that is occurring in the nation's schools is a real problem, and one that should be dealt with in a timely manner. This cannot be accomplished by people who only try to fix the problem without having a real understanding of the problem and its roots. Before anyone can actually address the problem at hand, an understanding must be reached of the causes of the problem and the mitigating factors surrounding it. Only then can workable solutions actually be proposed and attempted to determine if they are viable (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992).

The purpose of this study is to examine the existing and significant relationship between school culture and school safety. The Center for Effective Schools (2001) introduced the notion that no two schools are alike. Schools, they pointed out, just as the people within them, have different characteristics. These characteristics create what is known as the culture of the school. A school that is found in the inner part of a large and multicultural city will not have the same culture and safety issues as a school found in a rural environment (Eccles & Midgley, 1989).

These differences between schools make the problem particularly difficult to correct, because what works in one school may not work in another. However, when particular ties between culture and safety are identified and studied, correlations can be made between what culture causes what problems. With this information, researchers and school officials can move forward with ideas and suggestions for how to change or improve the culture of a school in other to avoid or minimize the safety problems associated with it (Eccles, et al., 1993).

The importance of school culture and its importance in creating effective schools is well documented in Edmonds (1979), Sizer (1984), Hersh (2000) and others. All of these studies indicate that the culture of a school is a significant factor in how much safety the school enjoys and whether the students in that particular school are being effectively taught what they need to know to make their way in the world once their schooling has been completed (Willen, 1994).

Research by Sizer (1984), Hersh (2000), and Hargreaves (1997) tie school culture to school safety. There are, however, two very important questions that need to be answered in order to explain exactly how school culture impacts school safety in effective schools and to uncover the type of culture which is found in these effective schools. It is possible that there is not one specific culture that makes a school safe, but rather several different cultures that are all effective in creating a safe school environment. It is likely, however, that there is a correlation between the types of schools that are safe, since culture and safety in schools seem to be inexorably tied together. While several different types of cultures may work well to promote safety, in other words, it is likely that these different cultures will all have certain things in common that will create the safe environment that these schools enjoy (Anderman & Midgley, 1997).

The most important questions that need to be addressed will hopefully be answered throughout the course of this study. These questions are: 1) keeping effective school research in mind, how do schools create proper environments that are conducive to safety and order; and 2) what behaviors of students and staff work to contribute to a school culture that produces an environment of safety and order where students can learn? When these questions have been answered, researchers and school officials will be that much closer to not only detailing what types of cultures are necessary for school safety, but also to determining how these cultures can be obtained in schools that are experiencing significant safety issues (Anderman & Young, 1994).

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to identify the relationship that exists between school culture and school safety. Since it has been suggested that this relationship definitely exists, it now becomes necessary to identify this relationship more specifically and provide details that have previously not been discussed or determined. Doing this will allow continued research and exploration into this topic, while also allowing schools to work toward creating safer environments.

While there is an abundance of research on providing school safety and its impact on student achievement, there is not enough research on the effect of the philosophy of the principal as a cultural leader, and how, if at all, this impacts school safety and student achievement (Leithwood, 1998). As the importance of school safety points to the fact that no learning can occur if this component is not in place, this study will be of interest to educators that are concerned with creating a culture of safety and order. It is assumed that all schools would be desirous of obtaining a safe and orderly learning environment for their students.

Those schools that are safe and secure provide the best learning environment for their students, and there are apparently some important characteristics that make these schools safer than the rest. Some of this is related to the location of the school and the ethnic makeup of the student body, but this is not always the case. There are also schools in areas where safety should be an issue that are providing safety and security for their students. How they are doing this becomes interesting, because there must be some formula that works for them (Berliner, 1993).

The interest then lies in finding out what these schools have that sets them apart from the rest. It is because of this interest that researchers are attempting to find the correlation between school culture and school safety. Whether this correlation lies with the principal, teachers, community, or students themselves remains to be determined. It is also a consideration that there could be a combination of things necessary to create the safe environment found in many of society's schools (Carnegie, 1989; Cone, et al., 1985).

In order to properly address this issue, research questions and hypotheses are a necessary part of the process, as they will be referred to throughout the study and used in the conclusion to review what has been learned by the research and whether the hypotheses proved valid and the research questions were answered. It will also help to determine whether any progress has been made toward determining a link between school culture and school safety. If this link can be determined, then the specifics are also worthy of note and attention, as they will provide the groundwork for future study and help school officials work towards the goal of safer schools (Foley & Epstein, 1982).

Research Questions

The following questions are the ones most likely to be of significance where culture and safety are concerned. They embody all that is important in this study and also take into account the perceptions of those that work in schools and are therefore more 'in tune' with the atmosphere and culture of a particular school. For these reasons, and undoubtedly for others as well, they are worthy of consideration and will be examined in this study. Appropriate questions are vital for the conduction of research. Without knowing what needs to be asked, whether it has been answered can not actually be determined. The following three questions will be asked and analyzed during this particular study:

Is there a relationship between school culture and school safety?

2. Are there identifiable behaviors within school culture that contribute to safety?

3. What are the perceptions of teachers and administrators about school culture and order?

Hypotheses

Hypotheses are an equally important part of the research into a topic such as this one. While some studies use only research questions and others use only hypotheses, it is necessary to use both hear to come to a clearer and more specific understanding of the significance of the research. These hypotheses… [END OF PREVIEW]

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