Student perceptions of violence: An exploratory field study

Stephanie Jane Richards Howard


In this study the researcher looked at the problem of violence in schools. Much literature addressed the need for violence prevention programs, the link between violence and television programming, the link between gang membership and violent behavior, the under reporting of violence in the schools, violence as related to bullying in the schools, and so on. However, the researcher found no information on what students actually perceived to be violence in the schools. The researcher designed an instrument (Perception of Violence Questionnaire) to test students' levels of perceived violence in different scenarios within the school setting to determine what types of behaviors students would classify as extremely violent, more than a little violent, a little violent, and not violent at all. The scenarios were created from actual court cases and from anecdotal records of practicing field administrators. The scenarios represented the violence factors of drugs/weapons possession, sexual assault, harassment/intimidation, student on student assault, student on teacher assault, and teacher on student assault. Further, the researcher gathered demographic information on the students such as socioeconomic status, parents' highest level of education, student participation in extracurricular activities, student court record, student membership in gang or occult group, student age, student ethnicity, student gender, and so on in an effort to see whether demographic variables influenced student perceptions of violence at school. All high school students enrolled in English classes in two rural public Colorado school districts participated in the study. The ultimate goal of the study was to provide secondary educators with information concerning students, perceptions of violence in schools in order to help them create violence-related prevention and intervention programs based on scientific study of the topic.