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Very Small Schools: Data Shows Less Aggression and Violence, Leading to Safer Schools

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

A sample of data collected from 842 middle schools in Texas, over a three year period, compared the relationship between school size and incidents of violence and aggression. Incidents included reported aggravated assaults and fighting in schools from all demographics and socio-economic status. Incidences included student to student aggression, student-teacher aggression and violence, also both including/not including police involvement.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB), retrieved and analyzed archival data, consisting of the discipline records of middle schools, for a comparative analysis of documented occurrences.

The 842 middle schools were subcategorized as:

very small (less than 300 total student enrollment)

small (300-599 total student enrollment)

medium (600-899 total student enrollment)

large (900-1,999 total student enrollment)

Numerous studies have indicated that levels of violence are more common in larger schools than in smaller schools (i.e., Ferris & West, 2004). More specifically, Ferris and West (2004) compiled data from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) information that was distributed in 2001. These data indicated that “school violence rapidly rises with school size and almost exponentially so for seriously violent crimes” (p. 1681).

Furthermore, very small schools had a statistically significantly lower proportion of students involved in fights and proportion of incidents of fights than did large schools. Thus, very small schools appear to be at a greater advantage than are the other types of schools with respect to incidents of school violence.

With the development of large schools on the rise (Hampel, 2002), many educators and policy-makers have argued that large schools cannot provide for the human aspect of schooling as can smaller schools (Lay, 2007) because they create an environment of impersonality and anonymity (Chen & Weikart, 2008).

The students of small to large schools need more support, not only within school, but also outside of school, where as very small schools better serve families with wrap-around support as part of the school culture.

In conclusion, future research should explore very small schools in more detail. Specifically, data showed the size of middle school had a statistically significantly lower proportion of students involved in violent incidents and a statistically significant lower proportion of violent incidents. Policy makers should consider investing in plans which transition schools to very small schools with the intention of creating safer schools and communities. Very small schools provide wrap around support, lessen (if not eliminate) the opportunity for anonymity there by providing a deeper sense of connectivity and behavior accountability and providing the opportunity for adult intervention in conflict resolution that would otherwise lead to aggressive or violent behavior.

Journal of Educational Issues ISSN 2377-2263 2015, Vol. 1, No. 1

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