Term of Award

Spring 1999

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Patricia Lindauer

Committee Member 1

Cordelia Douzenis

Committee Member 2

T. C. Chan

Committee Member 3

Michael G. Allen

Abstract

Most elementary schools throughout the nation are safe environments in which young children are achieving and flourishing. However, as the literature confirms that elementary schools are experiencing an increase in incidents of school violence (Petersen, 1997, National Parent Teacher Association, 1993, Sauerwein, 1995), it is imperative that principals examine both proactive and reactive means of responding to these violence issues should they arise in their schools. Disciplinary consequences addressing violent acts which have been used historically in secondary and middle schools are not always available to elementary principals nor are they developmentally appropriate for young perpetrators of violent acts.

The procedures utilized in this descriptive study included identifying the Georgia elementary schools which housed any combination of grades including prekindergarten through fifth grade during the 1997-1998 school year (N=l 161). A random sample (N=450) of principals or assistant principals in charge of discipline were mailed surveys in order for the researcher to gather data concerning the existence and degree of elementary school violence in their schools. The survey also requested information concerning the policies, security measures, and prevention programs in place in each participant's school Percentages and frequency counts were used to interpret the data provided by the respondents.

The findings of this study determined that the types of violence most prevalent in Georgia elementary schools during the 1997-1998 school year were physical conflicts among students, verbal abuse of teachers, vandalism of school property, weapons possession by students, and physical abuse of teachers. Results indicated that physical conflicts among students and verbal abuse of teachers were considered to be serious to moderate problems by principals responding.

The disciplinary responses most frequently used as disciplinary options in responding to elementary students who have exhibited violent behaviors were in-school suspension and out-of-school suspension. Corporal punishment, behavior contracts, and time out were disciplinary options which respondents reported assigning to students who had behaved in a violent manner.

Many elementary schools did have in place zero tolerance policies to address school violence which contained a component mandating the expulsion of offending viii students for one year. Elementary school principals responded that they had zero tolerance policies for firearms, weapons, drugs, and alcohol possession. Policies, but not zero tolerance policies, were in place to respond to violence in the schools.

Few security measures were in place in Georgia elementary schools during the 1997-1998 school year. Elementary principals responded that their schools required that visitors sign-in, that controlled access to school buildings and school grounds was maintained, but few responded that they used metal detectors daily or randomly, drug sweeps, security personnel, or school uniforms.

The majority of elementary principals responded that they had programs in place which were intended to prevent or reduce violence. Fewer principals reported having gun safety initiatives in their schools.

Schools differed along demographic lines in that large schools had more security measures in place, while small and medium schools reported more serious problems with school violence. Schools with almost all students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and schools with majority free and reduced lunch populations experienced more serious problems with school violence issues.

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