Improving the school environment to reduce school violence: A review of the literature

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130 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: School violence can impact the social, psychological, and physical well-being of both students and teachers and disrupt the learning process. This review focuses on a new area of research, the mechanisms by which the school environment determines the likelihood of school violence. METHODS: A search for peer-reviewed articles was made in six databases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report on school-violence interventions. Twenty-five articles that attempted to understand the influence of either the school social or physical environment in determining teacher and student perceptions of safety and experiences of violence were included. RESULTS: Most of the included articles were cross-sectional surveys of junior high or high school students and staff. As articles used different measures of the school physical and social environment, a classification system was created. Using this system, studies show that schools with less violence tend to have students who are aware of school rules and believe they are fair, have positive relationships with their teachers, feel that they have ownership in their school, feel that they are in a classroom and school environment that is positive and focused on learning, and in an environment that is orderly. CONCLUSION: The school social and physical environment appears to offer intervention opportunities to reduce school violence. However, the lack of consistency in school environment variables as well as the lack of longitudinal and experimental research designs limits the applicability of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-465
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • School environment
  • School improvement
  • School violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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