Term of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

T. C. Chan

Committee Member 2

Fred Page

Committee Member 3

Catherine Wooddy


This study was conducted to provide information concerning Georgia middle school principals' awareness of gang activity in their schools. Selected characteristics of the principals and their schools were studied to ascertain the effects of those variables on the principals' awareness of gang activity. Also studied were the actions the principals had taken to address gang activity. The underlying premise for the study was that today's youths must have certain needs met in order to learn, that gang activity is one avenue chosen by young people when those needs are not fulfilled, and that school principals play a vital role in establishing a school climate in which students do not feel the need to affiliate with gangs and to participate in gang activity. The study sought to involve the 372 Georgia middle school principals, excluding the researcher By way of a survey, middle school principals' awareness of the 1998 Georgia Street Gangs Act and their participation in school violence and gang activity workshops were measured to better understand their level of awareness of gang activity. Likewise, the effects of principals' characteristics of gender, ethnicity, highest degree earned, and years of experience on the principals' awareness of gang activity were studied, along with school characteristics of average daily attendance, percentage of free and reduced lunches, geographic location, and school size. Finally, from information provided by the participants, the researcher identified the actions taken by the principals in response to gang activity.Of the participants, 72 % were made aware of the 1998 Georgia Street Gangs Act, of which 27.6 % had used the law, and 79 % had attended a conference or workshop on gang activity. Overall reporting of gang-like behaviors and activities were low, with the mean scores of responses falling between the strongly disagree and disagree for all items. Notwithstanding, approximately 20 % of the participants reported graffiti being gang-related and gang type clothing and communication being present in their schools. The overall effects of the principals' characteristics on the principals' awareness of gang activity in their schools were minimal. Principals with fewer years experience reported more incidences of graffiti throughout the school (p=.043) and principals with the most years of experience reported a greater increase in weapons brought to school (p= 039). Also, findings related to highest degree yielded significant differences among the groups concerning students congregating in specific areas (p=.019), an increase in trespassers on campus (p=.036), and the presence of gangs in the school (p=.044), but no consistent pattern was revealed. The overall effects of school characteristics on principals' awareness of gang activity indicated that student average daily attendance affected the principals' awareness of gang activity for all categories in the study, while the percentage of free and reduced lunches produced significant differences for the category of contributing factors. Geographic location of the school revealed significant differences in the categories of graffiti and contributing factors and the size of the school had no affect on any of the categories identified in the study. Findings of the study show that principals indicate that gang activity is present in Georgia's middle schools and that attention should be given to address the underlying causes of this behavior.


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