Ph.D. Spotlight: The Influence of Security and Support on Performance, Punishment, and Parental Engagement in Majority White and Majority Minority Schools

Schools across the United States are ramping up security in hopes of preventing shootings and other forms of school violence. There are two types of school security environments: inclusionary and exclusionary. Inclusionary security is intended to monitor and socialize students, while exclusionary environments are intended to remove students from the school. Many schools are supplementing increased security with social support programs and organizational involvement, for a more holistic approach to safety. Although these solutions are widespread, we know little about their implementation and relationship to the school environment.

This dissertation employs three theoretical traditions to explore the relationship between security environments, social support programs, organizational involvement, and various outcomes including academic performance, disciplinary action, and parental engagement. Critical race theory primes the approach to this issue, in that implementation of these measures is likely to vary by racial composition of the school in such a way that maintains systematic racial inequality. The mechanisms that maintain this inequality align with Foucauldian surveillance and punishment. These tools of surveillance and punishment may negatively impact the ability of stakeholders to form deep, trusting relationships. From the lens of these theories, this dissertation asks, “how do punitive and non-punitive efforts within schools reproduce, or challenge, racial inequality in schools?”

This dissertation examines the relationships between security environments, social support programming, organizational involvement, and academic performance, disciplinary action, and parental engagement overall and by school racial composition using the nationally representative 2015-16 wave of the School Survey on Crime and Safety. This dissertation explores the implementation of security measures, programs, and organizational involvement by school racial composition using bivariate analyses. Regression analyses are used to examine the relationships between security environments, programs, organizations and academic performance, disciplinary actions, and parental engagement.

Findings show that exclusionary security environments function more punitively than inclusionary environments, and their effects may be particularly salient in majority-minority schools. Evidence also finds that social support programming may be a promising intervention to reduce disciplinary actions within majority white schools, and that law-enforcement based organizational involvement may be detrimental.

Exclusionary security environments bolster pathways from schools to prisons, especially in majority-minority schools. They may also sustain existing racial gaps in academic performance and parental engagement. There is little evidence to suggest that social support programming and organizational involvement improves the overall school environment, or counteracts the negative impacts of exclusionary environments. When examining organizational involvement in the future, scholars adopt the delineation made in this dissertation between law enforcement-based organizations and community-based organizations, as law enforcement-based organizations may function as part of the exclusionary environment. This dissertation goes on to discuss implications for theory and practice.

Dr. Erichsen is a graduate of Florida State University’s Sociology Ph.D. program. This post is based on Dr. Erichsen’s dissertation abstract. You can learn more about this project here, and learn more about Dr. Erichsen’s other research here.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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