Student Response to Failures in School-Level Control Mechanisms

Michael Planty, American Institutes for Research
Jill Fleury DeVoe, American Institutes for Research

Social disorganization and organizational climate theories are used to argue that schools exert formal control over student behavior to curb violence and victimization on school grounds. These formal control mechanisms include physical elements such as metal detectors, hallway monitors, and security cameras. Other social mechanisms of control include consistency and clarity of school rules and regular enforcement and punishment for violation of school rules. However, often schools fail to provide adequate levels of formal control resulting in disrupted and potentially dangerous environments. Individuals (i.e., students) may then feel the need to use informal measures of control in response to these conditions. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between students' behavior in schools with low levels of formal control. We hypothesize that students respond to deficiencies in their school's formal controls by engaging in student "defensive" behaviors. Specifically, weapon carrying, avoidance behavior and truancy are more likely to be reported by victimized students who report that the formal control mechanisms at their school are weak or not existent.

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Updated 05/20/2006