Committee Chair

Eigenberg, Helen

Committee Member

Thompson, Roger; McGuffee, Karen

Department

Dept. of Criminal Justice and Legal Assistant Studies

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Publisher

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)

Abstract

The propensity to overestimate statistics, underestimate safety, and dramatically report crime is clearly seen in the issue of school violence. Violent crime in schools is rare, however, over publicized (Baily, Carona, Mebane, & Snell, 2002). Nonetheless any evidence of it arouses fear in teachers, students, and parents (Toby, 1983; Dworkin, Haney & Telschow, 1988; May, 1999; Smith & Smith, 2006). Since the recent exposure and coverage of school shootings, Americans seem to be gripped by fear over this issue (Burns & Crawford, 1999). This fear, in conjunction with a lack of clear communication on the part of the school system and administrators, has led to knee jerk reactions in the realm of policy and student management. This research sought to filter through the media montages and assumed information on a much debated subject. Specifically, it explored the thoughts and impressions of school violence from the perspective of teachers. Interestingly, though it would be assumed that teachers, on a macro level, would face severe fear and anxiety related to school violence, this research discovered that most have no real fear of violence, particularly in their own schools. It is often viewed as an issue “out there,” but teachers do not feel responsible for addressing the problem directly. The findings of this research indicate that teachers perceive that school violence is becoming “worse” and that their students are capable of violence even in the absence of actual violence in their schools. In addition, it has been indicated that respondents who were more likely to perceive school violence as a problem in general were more likely to perceive school violence as a problem in their schools and were more apt to fear violence in their schools than were teachers who thought school violence throughout the U.S. was not an overly serious problem. The scale data does demonstrate though that most teachers, on average, were unafraid, but held an interesting contradiction in that there was a strong push for policy to address an issue that is not overly prevalent in their schools. Media Consumption and the sensationalization of school violence seemingly played an interesting and unexpected role in the respondentsʼ perceptions of school violence in that respondents who believed that the media sensationalizes school violence were significantly more apt to perceive school violence was a problem in general and were more likely to fear violence in their own schools. Thus, teachers who appear to have a more “realistic” view of school violence who are less affected by media sensationalism are, in fact, less fearful of school violence. Interestingly, however, the amount of time watching television was not associated with endorsing media sensationalism. Media consumption had an important effect but not in the expected direction. Interestingly teachers who watched less television daily were significantly more apt to fear school violence. As such, it appears that while acceptance of sensationalistic views of school violence is important when attempting to understand school violence, the overall amount of television consumed is even more important. The attention and focus of the American public, policy makers, and the American teacher, has too often turned to school violence. Although this is an important issue, it is not nearly as pressing as inadequate funding, deteriorating facilities, and an educational system that continues to produce fewer and fewer students prepared to move on to college with the average American ninth grader having less than a 40 percent likelihood of enrolling in any college, and in a country where our educational achievement is quickly becoming inferior to most other industrial and developed countries (Kingsbury, 2006).

Degree

M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.

Date

5-2009

Subject

School violence

Discipline

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Document Type

Masters theses

Extent

x, 77 leaves

Language

English

Rights

Under copyright.

License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

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