Date of Award

10-9-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Global Leadership - with a specialization in Educational Leadership

Department

College of Education

First Advisor

William J. Leary

Second Advisor

Ann Crawford

Third Advisor

Adam Kosnitzky

Abstract

The increase in youth gangs since the late 1980s and the related violence that has erupted in the schools has fueled the public's fear of these gangs. With the strong and proven correlation between the presence of gangs and guns and drugs in schools, this fear seems justified. The increase in violence on school campuses has created an environment of fear, which in turn has added to teacher stress, burnout, and attrition. In response, schools have teamed with law enforcement personnel to build and maintain safe schools and to provide for a safe teaching environment.

The purpose of this study was to examine K-12 teacher characteristics, school characteristics, and teachers' reactions to violence while also examining the possible mediating effects school security measures have on individual teacher intention to leave the teaching profession. A quantitative, non-experimental, exploratory, and explanatory online survey research design was used to examine the relationships among the variables for public elementary, middle, and high school teachers.

Three research questions were answered and three hypotheses were tested. Four of the 100 largest school districts in the United States agreed to participate in the study. A total of 332 responses was obtained with 297 (89.5%) of them being complete.

The majority of the respondents felt low levels of intrusion, low to moderate levels of avoidance tendencies, moderate levels of relief, and high levels of safety and trust. These findings may be due to the high level of security measures on respondents' campuses. Also, respondents with gang experience had a higher intention to leave and higher feelings of intrusion, avoidance, and relief as well as lower feelings of safety and trust than those with no gang experience. Finally, respondents with four to nine years of teaching experience, those who reported a gang presence on their campus, and those in suburban middle schools reported the greatest intention to leave teaching when compared to their counterparts.

The findings in the study indicated that when teachers have greater feelings of safety and trust, they may be less likely to leave the teaching profession and when teachers trust their students and feel safe in their presence, they are less likely to experience avoidance tendencies. In addition, security on a school's campus may lower teacher intention to leave as the security measures on a campus mediate the relationship between teachers' feelings of safety and their intention to leave.

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