NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety

Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools

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Agenda - Thursday, February 18

Plenary Discussion

Thu, Feb 18 at 11:00 am EST

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Developing and Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in School Safety

Deborah Temkin
Daniel Mears
Paula Fynboh 
Cheryl May

Though we have learned a great deal about what can improve school safety, putting that knowledge to practice can be a demanding task.  This discussion will address issues related to the development and implementation of evidence-based approaches to improve school safety. Though the programs/ strategies discussed in this session were not always successful in achieving desired outcomes, what panelists learned will help others seeking to improve the approaches they take to keep schools and students safe.  Each panelist has a unique story to tell about their work to use research and evidence to improve school safety.

Phelan Wyrick

Roundtable Discussions 4-6

Thu, Feb 18 at 1:00 pm EST
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION 5: Impact of COVID-19 on School Safety Research

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Impact of COVID-19 on School Safety Research, Anthony Peguero

Thu, Feb 18 at 1:00 pm EST

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Trauma in Schools, Deborah Sellers

Thu, Feb 18 at 1:00 pm EST
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION 7: School Safety Implementation Challenges

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School Safety Implementation Challenges, Caleb Hudgins

Breakout Sessions 13-15

Thu, Feb 18 at 2:00 pm EST

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Presentation Abstracts

School Climate, Safety, and Inequality: Highlighting the Significance of Context and Place, Melissa Ripepi, Nicholas Read, Amy Ernstes, Patricia Campie, and Anthony Peguero

School climate and safety are paramount for educational progress and success, pro-social behavior, and healthy adolescent development. But, there are historic and persistent disparities and inequities in regards to schools and place. As demonstrated in extant research, there are significant distinctions across urban, suburban, and rural communities in regards to school climate and safety. However, there is limited understanding how schools are embedded in a community health context. We will incorporate and integrate a Social Determinants of Health perspective to guide our investigation of the linkages between school climate, safety, and place. This study draws from three distinct California school districts in order to address two broad research questions about the relationship between school safety, climate, and context. First, are there school climate and safety disparities between urban, suburban, and rural school districts? Second, are there distinctions in regards to public health contexts of students who attend urban, suburban, and rural school districts?

Different Disciplinarians in Schools: The Impact of SROs and Principals on School Safety and Student Outcomes, Lucy Sorenson and Shawn Bushway

The "defund the police" movement has included calls to remove school resource officers (SROs) from schools, due to concerns of heightened student contact with the criminal justice system. Without SROs, school principals and staff play an even larger role in maintaining a safe school climate.  Our research uses linked education and criminal justice data from North Carolina to study the impact of both principals and SROs on student outcomes. We find that SROs decrease serious violence, but also increase the use of out-of-school suspensions. We also find that that principals with high(er) proclivity to suspend students increase juvenile justice complaints and reduce high school graduation. In both studies, we observe disparate impacts by race.

An Evaluation of a Comprehensive Approach to Reducing Disparities in School Discipline, Anna Yaros and Cheryl Roberts

From 2018-2021, RTI International is partnering with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina to implement and evaluate a comprehensive initiative to reduce discipline disparities between African American males and other groups. This initiative includes Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), restorative practices, and culturally responsive practices. Our presentation will provide an overview of the project, study design, and implementation findings from the first two years. This randomized controlled trial with 7 treatment and 9 control schools assesses outcomes, implementation, and cost-benefit. Implementation evaluation questions include fidelity, integration of interventions, facilitators, challenges, and teacher self-efficacy in implementing the interventions. A major lesson learned involved how researchers worked with the district by asking questions and creating a feedback loop. Systems-level findings related to the approach to the roll-out of three interventions, the importance of starting with PBIS, and identifying common practices to communicate to stakeholders. Challenges to actual implementation prior to the pandemic included competing initiatives and leadership priorities, perceived staff burden; communication; a typical high school strategic focus on academics rather social and emotional learning; school size; and time. Coaching practices interrupted these barriers, as did sharing data, training sequencing, and having champions, clear roles, and support structures.

Immigration and School Threat?: Exploring the Significance of the Border, Trey Marchbanks

Although the “myth” about the immigration and crime link is one of immigrant propensity for criminality in the United States, contradictory evidence suggests that immigrants, including youth, are less likely to be deviant. Little is known, however, about the relationship between immigration, schools, and punishment within a school, especially schools on the border. This study contributes to school violence research by investigating distinctions between school discipline and juvenile justice referral rates, as well as the role of immigration, in schools near the Texas-Mexico border in comparison to other Texas schools. We explore the relationship between immigration and school violence by probing variation in school punishment and juvenile justice referral across space. First, how much variability exists in school discipline and juvenile justice referral rates near the border in comparison to other schools?; Second, how much variability exists when statistically controlling for known factors associated with school discipline and juvenile justice referral rates in schools near the border in comparison to other schools?; Third, does the proportion of children of immigrants within a school moderate school discipline and juvenile justice referral rates in schools near the Texas-Mexico border in comparison to other Texas schools? Theoretical and implications are discussed.

Thu, Feb 18 at 2:00 pm EST

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Presentation Abstracts

A Taxonomy of Law Enforcement Engagement in Rural Schools, Mario Scalora

School Resource Officers in Suburban Elementary Schools, F. Chris Curran

SROs are now as common in suburban schools as they are in city schools, and elementary schools have seen significant increases in SRO presence. This presentation presents findings from a mixed-methods study of SRO expansion in suburban elementary schools. The findings document why SROs were expanded in this context, the daily roles and activities of SROs in this setting, and how their presence relates to student outcomes. The findings point to how tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting prompted expansion of SROs in this setting and how this focus on safety from external threats shapes their perspectives on using law enforcement and disciplinary action toward students. Implications for ongoing policy discussions around SROs are discussed.

Is It All Just Law Enforcement? Understanding the Diverse Roles of Police in Schools, Benjamin Fisher

One of the purported benefits of school resource officers (SROs) is that they engage in tasks unrelated to law enforcement such as providing mentoring and education to students. Still, little is known about SROs' motivations and rationales for engaging in these various activities. Using interview data from 26 SROs in a single large urban school district, this study examines how SROs talk about their various roles in the school and what guides their actions. The study's findings indicate that SROs use crime-control logics to motivate nearly all of their actions in schools, even actions as simple as giving high-fives or telling jokes to students. These pervasive crime control logics represent a form of school criminalization and have implications for student and schools, particularly in regard to racial equity.

School Resource Officer (SRO) Roles and Training: Perspectives from the Field, Gerard Lawson and Laura Welfare

School Resource Officers serve an invaluable role in supporting the school community. This research provides insight into the training provided and needed, and tasks that SROs are asked to balance in their role. Our quantitative findings helped to highlight the specific training that SROs bring to their work in the schools and what is still needed, and how their roles are understood by multiple stakeholders. And our qualitative findings bring the voice of exemplary SROs in how they manage their multiple roles.

Thu, Feb 18 at 2:00 pm EST

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Presentation Abstracts

Longitudinal Research on Violence Directed against Teachers: Prevalence, Negative Consequences and School Responses, Byongook Moon and John McCluskey

Few longitudinal studies have been conducted to examine the prevalence of teacher victimization, the extent of negative consequences, and school administrators' responses to victimization. The present research investigates the scope of seven different types of teacher victimization, negative consequences of teacher victimization, and victimized teachers' satisfaction with school responses. The findings indicate that teacher victimization is highly prevalent and has negative effects on victimized teachers' emotional and physical well-being. Finally, findings show that a substantial proportion of victimized teachers who reported the incident to the school were dissatisfied with the schools' handling of their victimization.

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of PreK-12 Students by School Personnel: A Policy Implementation Study, Billie-Jo Grant

This session will review school employee sexual misconduct - the abuse of students by school personnel - by examining (1) the state of the problem, and (2) the results of a Department of Justice School Safety study, School Employee Sexual Misconduct Policy Implementation and Effectiveness, the first federally funded study of the topic since 2004. The results will describe how multiple geographically and demographically diverse U.S. districts defined, interpreted, and implemented policies before and after incidents of school employee sexual misconduct. Best practices and a checklist for how to more effectively prevent and respond to cases of misconduct will be presented.

Teacher Perceptions of School Safety and Climate, Jennifer Maeng

Teachers and administrators play a vital role in promoting school safety and a positive school climate. In this presentation, we review findings from our 2018 NIJ project "Improvement of School Climate Assessment in Virginia Secondary Schools." We will review results from the Virginia Secondary School Climate Surveys and report how middle and high school teacher perceptions of school safety are associated with their concerns about administrative responsiveness, their positive perceptions of school resource officers, and their mixed support for zero tolerance disciplinary practices. We will describe how teachers and administrators use climate reports to improve their school climate. Implications for policy and practice will be discussed.

Coaching and Mixed-Reality Practice to Improve Teachers’ Detection and Prevention of and Intervention with Bullying in Middle School Classrooms, Elise Pas and Catherine Bradshaw

This study presents findings from a 4o middle school randomized controlled trial testing the impact of training and coaching in the three-tiered PBIS model, which was integrated with social-emotional learning and related preventive interventions. Consistent with a multi-tiered system of supports framework, schools used data on school climate and social-emotional learning to select from a menu of evidence-based preventive interventions. Coaches provided training and technical assistance on the preventive interventions, data-based decision-making, and the multi-tiered system of supports framework. Impacts on school climate and implementation data suggest the promise of the model in middle schools, which extends prior work in high schools.

Closing Plenary

Thu, Feb 18 at 3:45 pm EST

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Mary Poulin Carlton

The conference has offered a lot of opportunities to learn and discuss various topics related to school safety. This session will highlight key points of discussion throughout the conference. Thank you for joining us.