Background: To ensure that schools are safe places where students can learn, researchers and educators must understand student and faculty safety concerns. This study examines student and teacher perceptions of school safety. Methods: Twenty-two focus groups with students and faculty were conducted in 11 secondary schools. Schools were selected from a stratified sample to vary in location, proximity to Indian reservations, size, and type. The data analysis was based on grounded theory. Results: In 9 of 11 schools, neither faculty nor students voiced overwhelming concerns about safety. When asked what makes school safe, students tended to report physical security features. School climate and staff actions also increased feelings of safety. Faculty reported that relationships and climate are key factors in making schools safe. High student performance on standardized tests does not buffer students from unsafe behavior, nor does living in a dangerous neighborhood necessarily lead to more drug use or violence within school walls. School climate seemed to explain the difference between schools in which students and faculty reported higher versus lower levels of violence and alcohol and other drug use. Conclusions: The findings raise provocative questions about school safety and provide insight into elements that lead to perceptions of safety. Some schools have transcended issues of location and neighborhood to provide an environment perceived as safe. Further study of those schools could provide insights for policy makers, program planners, and educational leaders.
- School safety
- Student perceptions
- Teacher perceptions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health