Student Preferences for Safe and Psychologically Comfortable School Facilities
AuthorLamoreaux, Daniel James
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn the current atmosphere of intense concern over school violence, steps are often hastily taken to “fortify” schools without forethought for how such actions may adversely impact the school environment and students’ psychological wellbeing. Given the paucity of evidence that unequivocally demonstrates the effectiveness of metal detectors, security cameras, and other security features (NASP, 2013; Addington, 2009), this study investigates a potentially more sound approach toward enhancing school safety initiatives. Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is one philosophy that is commonly used in the design of safe schools, and—consistent with this philosophy—the present study investigates whether schools designed around CPTED principles are perceived as being safer and/or more psychologically comfortable when they are compared to schools that do not adhere to CPTED design elements. In the current study, the researcher visited three middle schools and four high schools across southern Arizona where students used their school laptops or computer labs to complete an online survey via Qualtrics survey software. Nine hundred students in grades 7 through 12 completed the survey, which included preexisting measures of risk behavior, previous exposure to violence, and school climate, as well as a novel instrument entitled the Preferable School Design Measure (PSDM). The PSDM presented pairs of photographs featuring a CPTED school design and a non-CPTED school design, then asked respondents in which school they would feel safer and more psychologically comfortable, respectively. Results indicate that students had a significantly greater preference for CPTED versus non-CPTED school designs (p <.001), both in terms of perceived psychological comfort (d = .70) and physical safety (d = .84). No significant differences were found in preferences for CPTED schools based on age, race/ethnicity, self-reported academic achievement, levels of previous exposure to violence, or socio-economic status, which suggests that identified preferences are generally robust to many common between-group demographic differences. Overall, study results suggest that implementing CPTED designs may be an effective approach to engender feelings of both safety and comfort among students. Moreover, it is conceivable that by changing the current landscape of mediocre school facilities, the academic and psychosocial outcomes of students inhabiting these facilities might be greatly enhanced.
Degree ProgramGraduate College