The Effects of School Structure and Disorganization on Violent Crime in Kentucky Schools

Michelle Campbell Augustine, University of Kentucky

Urban ecology theories of crime are one of the most frequently used maco-theoretical perspectives in examining crime and delinquency. The social disorganization position, in particular, posits that structural factors of poverty, ethnic heterogeneity, and residential mobility create disorganization and render certain neighborhoods incapable of providing adequate supervision or intervention of their residents. The result is a neighborhood lacking in formal and informal defenses against crime. Research supports that community racial composition, residential mobility, and poverty affect the crime rate, yet until recently most previous research invoking this perspective has assumed that these structural characteristics are proxies of disorganization and have failed to actually measure social (dis) organization or control itself. Furthermore, social disorganization has traditionally been applied to community-based explanations of crime and delinquency rather than school-based explanations. This paper applies this theoretical approach to violent delinquency in Kentucky schools. Specifically, I examine OLS models using structural data from the Kentucky Department of Education as well as social (dis)organization data on the supervision and intervention practices of teachers aggregated from a self-administered questionnaire. Results will determine the extent to which the school structural and (dis)organization characteristics affect the school-level rates of violent crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006