Statement of purpose School violence is a major concern for the safety and wellbeing of school-age youth. In 2018, adolescent students reported 836,000 nonfatal victimizations at school, and 410,000 away from school. These experiences are disruptive to the educational environment and associated with negative mental health, school performance, and delinquency outcomes. The purpose of this study was to understand how students’ daily routines and social interactions over the school day influence risk of violence with the goal of informing intervention.
Methods/Approach We conducted this qualitative work in the context of a large-scale, mixed-methods investigation of school violence in an urban setting. Semi-structured interviews (n=56) were conducted with 12–18 years old who lived/went to school in Philadelphia, PA, and were involved (victim/perpetrator) in a violent school-related assault in the six months prior to their interview. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and entered into NVivo 12 for coding and analysis. Using a modified grounded theory approach, we developed a codebook matching common themes identified in the interviews.
Results Preliminary results suggest school-related violence is infrequently a random act; instead there was usually a precipitating event, and these incidents almost always involved people who knew each other. Important emerging themes included: opportunities to intervene; role of adults and peers in encouraging/discouraging violence; varied attitudes towards school supervision; role of social media; and presence of trauma and importance of emotion regulation. Social environment was considered in the context of the physical environment to enhance the meaning of place.
Conclusion School violence occurs with some regularity, and violent acts or incidents are often the final culminating events, offering several areas of modifiable factors for intervention leading up to the incident.
Significance Findings from this study lend important insights for how to reduce school violence and will inform training and policy recommendations at the local level which can also be adapted nationwide in similar settings.
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