One tool for evaluating school safety

One tool for evaluating school safety was recently evaluated by researchers in California. A short form of the California School Climate and Safety Survey (CSCSS-SF) was developed and tested with 7,524 sixth-through-12th- graders in 61 California schools.

The goal was to create an easily administered assessment that would be both reliable and valid in evaluating the climate and safety of individual schools. A quick and valid measure is needed if schools are going to be able to monitor and modify their violence-prevention plans.

Students surveyed on school climate

On the short form of this survey, students are asked about the frequency of dangerous activities occurring on campus (fights, theft, threats and bullying, vandalism, and the presence of drugs, alcohol and weapons). Then they are asked to answer school climate questions (whether teachers show respect for students, if rules are fair, if gangs make the school unsafe, if crime and violence is a major concern on campus and if they feel safe at school).

The final section asks students about incidents in which they, personally, have been victimized (shoved, kicked, threatened by gun or knife, ridiculed, sexually harassed, their property damaged, or if they were ever injured and had to seek medical attention).

Together, these three sections can be used to develop a comprehensive picture of school safety. Surveys reveal students’ observations, feelings, and personal experiences with danger on school grounds. This analysis of the short form of the CSCSS indicates that it is a useful tool to assess multiple facets of students’ perceptions of school safety.

Trained proctors recommended

However, these researchers point out that responses are more consistent when surveys are distributed by trained proctors. Failure to adequately administer and screen data can result in inflated estimates of school danger and victimization. These researchers mention two other school safety assessments with adequate psychometric characteristics: the California Healthy Kids Survey and the Safe and Responsive Schools Safe Schools Survey. Data from these school-level assessments can be used to complement larger state and national studies. These researchers conclude that the CSCSS-SF can provide schools with sound information and offer guidance to improve school safety.

“Development of the California School Climate and Safety Survey-Short Form,” Psychology in the Schools, Volume 42, Number 2, February 2005, pp. 137-149

Published in ERN March 2005 Volume 18 Number 3

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