Abstract: Dealing with the Day-to-Day: Harnessing School Climate to Reduce the Effects of Non-Fatal Victimization and Maladaptive Behavior on Academic Performance (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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57P Dealing with the Day-to-Day: Harnessing School Climate to Reduce the Effects of Non-Fatal Victimization and Maladaptive Behavior on Academic Performance

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Francesca Stambolian, BA, Research Assistant, Montclair State University, Montclair, NY
Samantha Coyle, PhD, Assistant Professor, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Karly Weinreb, MA, Graduate Research Assistant, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Background and Purpose: Media attention and a culture of fear for fatal student behavior as a result of high-profile school shootings has led to a general misconception of the prevalence of student victimization in today’s schools. In fact, recent research suggests parents and principals perceive school shootings as one of the leading threats to school safety and among the most likely hazardous event that would affect student safety at school (Ewton, 2017). However, non-fatal day-to-day victimization, such as fighting, bullying, and hate crimes have become far more common. In fact, data from the most recent release of the National Crime Victimization Survey reports that 1,478 student deaths were recorded in the 2015-2016 school year, with only 18 occurring at school and 1,460 occurring away from school. Conversely, data from the same release of the NCVS estimated that students ages 12–18 experienced 827,000 total non-fatal victimizations at school (Musu, et al., 2019). The present study aims to better understand how non-fatal exposure to school violence effects school climate and subsequently student performance.

Methods: Data were collected from approximately 350 students across multiple schools in one large, inner-city school district to examine the relationships between student: 1) exposure to common violence in school; 2) school culture and climate; and 3) academic performance. Survey items were developed considering previous efforts to measure maladaptive and violent student behavior (SSOCS, 2010); school culture and climate (MDS3) (Bradshaw, 2014); and academic performance (data were provided by the school district). Complex MIMIC modelling was used to account for shared variance between schools with the goal of examining within-level variation in performance and attendance across students nested within the participating schools.

Results: Results of the model suggest that more victimization is associated with less engagement in school and a less desirable perceived environment in school. African-American and Hispanic youth reported significantly higher levels of bullying/aggression victimization at school. Results also indicated that school environment was positively associated with student attendance rate. Engagement in school was positively associated with math and reading ability, though these relationships differed for different racial groups. With academic performance as the outcome, there was a significant negative interaction between engagement and victimization and a significant positive interaction among engagement and behavior

Conclusions and Implications: Not surprisingly, the results of this study indicate that the experience of non-fatal victimization (both as a victim and as a perpetrator) may place students at risk for academic and school related challenges. Importantly, this study provides further detail concerning the effects of victimization on student perceptions of the school climate and how together, these variables affect student achievement and attendance at school. Social workers and mental health professionals can use this information to develop effective assessment tools and subsequently identify students in need or tertiary interventions. Moreover, addressing issues with school climate and culture might be an effective way to assist in improvement efforts when approaching deficits in academic performance among students within inner-city school districts. Implications for policy and practice will be discussed.