A critical analysis of the effectiveness of administrative rules for gang-related activities in middle and high schools
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that 35 percent of middle school students and 45 percent of high school students say that there are students who are affiliated with gangs or who consider themselves to be affiliated with gangs in their schools (Arciaga, Sakamoto, & Jones, 2010). Gangs are increasingly violent and criminally involved and their impact on the school environment negatively influences student performance (National Gang Center, 2010a). As juveniles engage in criminal activity, the justice system has developed a set of laws and consequences in an effort to suppress the behavior. Schools followed the lead of the juvenile justice system and punish students through disciplinary measures such as out-of-school suspension. The purpose of this study was to determine if current discipline policies related to gang affiliation provide administrators at the middle and high school level the means to keep their schools safe from gang-related misconduct. The researcher also sought recommendations from middle and high school principals for improving current gang-related discipline policies. The study involved a mixed methodology with a survey instrument that included quantitative items and an interview instrument that included qualitative questions posed to a subset of the sample of principals. The rationale for using a mixed method was to ensure a more comprehensive approach to obtaining information about principals' perspectives regarding the adequacy of gang-related policies. The results from the quantitative phase indicated that principals do not believe that OSS is an effective consequence to suppress or prevent future gang-related behavior. They agree that the gang-related policies allow them the ability to keep their school safe from gang activity. Although the economic status of the community, years of principal experience, school level, and school enrollment in total have a significant effect on a principal's perspective of the adequacy of gang-related behavior, there was no unique significant predictor. For the qualitative phase, eight principals selected in accordance with the number of gang-related rates at the school for the past three years were interviewed. The principal responses were organized into two categories and corresponding themes were analyzed using a thematic code development method. The qualitative results support the notion that OSS is not an effective consequence for gang-related behavior. All eight principals reported that supportive strategies need to be implemented along with gang-related policy consequences to be more effective. The study also addressed recommendations for policy and future research.