A theoretical and empirical assessment of authoritarianism’s effects on behavior, attendance, and performance in urban school systems

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Abstract

Authoritarian school safety measures have become commonplace in efforts to promote safety in today’s schools. This paper attempts to examine the effects of student engagement with authoritarianism in schools using self-report survey data from students (N= 359) across eight high schools in one large, urban school district in the greater New York City area. With consideration of various frameworks for conceptualizing authority in schools, authoritarianism in schools is operationalized by student self-report of engagement between two time points in (1) random sweeps for contraband; (2) surveillance cameras; (3) metal detector searches; and (4) interaction with authority (i.e., school police). Findings suggest those who have increased engagement with authoritarianism in schools throughout the year report increased occurrence of engagement in maladaptive behavior. Concurrently, exposure to authoritarianism over the course of one school year is associated with student behavior, academic performance, and attendance in ways that vary for different racial and ethnic groups. Findings call for educators and administrators to consider and continually assess the effects of authoritarian practices on student performance when developing and implementing safety protocol in their schools.

Keywords

  • attendance
  • Authoritarianism
  • school safety
  • school violence
  • student performance

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