Dissertation

How High School Students in Northern New Jersey Perceive School Safety in a Post-Columbine World

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The United States of America has a unique problem of school shootings. The victims of school shootings are robbed of their futures at the very institutions attempting to prepare them for college, career, and citizenship. These shootings have inspired massive, costly security upgrades in American schools. This target hardening is one way to prevent future shootings, but these security measures are often implemented without considering student mental health and the impact on school climate. This mixed-methods research study aimed to determine how high school students in northern New Jersey perceive school safety in a post-Columbine world. Students’ perceptions were contextualized by conducting a thorough review of the federal, state, and local responses to school shootings and the existing body of research on student safety. This researcher collected quantitative and qualitative data through a web-based survey completed by 338 high school students. The researcher conducted hypothesis testing by utilizing three one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tables to determine the impact that the independent variables of grade level, gender, and racial background had on the dependent variable, students’ perceptions of safety. An additional ANOVA and t-test were performed to further investigate the impact of gender, which was highly significant to students’ perceptions of safety.

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