What Do Schools Have to Do With School Violence? Dis- and Re-Entangling Person, Organization, and Community Factors

Mercer Sullivan, Rutgers University

Recent research on school violence has raised a number of questions regarding the relative roles played by the school organization, the composition of the student body, and characteristics of surrounding and feeder neighborhoods in generating, preventing, and controlling violence. Limitations of existing research are its paucity, measurement validity, and the tendency of additive statistical models to neglect processes and mechanisms linking person, organization, and the environment in which the organization is embedded. In such a situation, qualitative analyses of field data can be useful for interpreting existing research findings and generating analytic categories and strategies for subsequent research. Comparative ethnographic data from three school/community settings are employed here for these purposes. Findings suggest that measures and analytic strategies used in research to date may mistakenly classify episodes and correlates of violent behavior with respect to whether or to what extent they are organizational, compositional, or external to the school in origin. Implications of these findings for various approaches to the prevention and control of violence are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006