Violence in public organizations: adapting contemporary theory to the case of schools



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Texas A&M University


Violence in American schools has declined significantly over the last two decades but still remains an important topic on the public agenda. This unusual dialectic, driven by the recent increase in extreme cases of violence, has fostered a renewed interest and scholarship in school violence and public policy focused on reducing this phenomenon. At present, schools across the nation are adopting and implementing policies based on past research to combat this new wave of school violence; however, the majority of the research in this area is limited to evaluations of the immediate problem in a localized region, or are a theoretic government reports that focus on correlates over causes and offer little guidance for understanding the policy environment. This dissertation takes a first pass at large-scale quantitative evaluation of violence in schools. I begin by adapting contemporary policy theory and blending it with contextually applicable causal models. I then test three separate aspects of this policy area. First I examine if institutions do have control over extreme behavior within their purview. Second, I examine the organizational covariates with violence. Finally, I examine the policy system including outputs, effects and actor influence within the subsystem. I find that schools are not simply victims of the external environment, but victims of the political environment. There are no substantive reductions in violence associated with any specific prevention measure; however, there are dramatic consequences when school administration or programs focus on this event.