School Security Practices: Investigating Their Consequences on Student Fear, Bonding and School Climate

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Although millions of dollars are spent each year on improving school security, not much has been done to assess the influence of these strategies on violence or student fear. Critics of security practices in schools argue that potential negative consequences stemming from the use of security practices in schools may outweigh their benefits. This study tested ideas voiced by opponents of the use of security practices in schools and based on the concept of collective efficacy. The study examined the influence of school security practices on student fear, student bonding and school climate in a sample of 233 secondary schools. The study used principal, student and teacher survey data from the National Study of Delinquency Prevention in Schools and hierarchical linear modeling techniques. Results indicated that the use of selected security practices in schools did not influence levels of student fear or bonding. Several school- and community-level variables were better predictors of student fear and bonding than was the use of school security strategies. Among these variables were community poverty and disorganization, percentage teachers black, school auspices (public, private, Catholic), community gang problems, and student enrollment. A discussion of the implications and limitations of this study, as well as suggestions for future research, are presented.