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Surveillance or Safekeeping? How School Security Officer and Camera Presence Influence Students' Perceptions of Safety, Equity, and Support

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescent Health Volume: 63 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2018 Pages: 732-738
Sarah L. Johnson; Jessika Bottiani; Tracy E. Waasdorp; Catherine P Bradshaw
Date Published
December 2018
7 pages

This study examined the association between observed security measures in secondary schools and students' perceptions of safety, equity, and support.


Target hardening, or increasing the use of security measures, is a frequently used response to perceived safety concerns in schools. Studies are mixed as to their effectiveness on students' perceptions of safety, and little is known about their influence on other aspects of school climate, particularly for minority students. In addressing this research gap, the current study conducted school climate surveys that were completed by 54,350 students from 98 middle and high schools across the state of Maryland, beginning in spring 2014. Concurrent observations of the school physical environment, including security measures (i.e., officers and cameras), were conducted by trained outside assessors. Multilevel regression analyses examined the association between school security officers and cameras and students' perceptions of safety, equity, and support, while controlling for school and neighborhood characteristics. Cross-level interactions explored differential effects of security measures for Black students. The findings indicate that greater use of security cameras inside the school was related to lower perceptions of safety, equity, and support. A moderate level of security camera use outside the school was related to higher student perceptions of support. Security officer presence was associated with higher perceptions of safety. For Black students, however, cameras were associated with a higher level of perceptions of safety and support compared to White students. These findings suggest that outside cameras and security may be perceived by students as safekeeping; whereas inside cameras may evoke feelings of being viewed as potential perpetrators who need surveillance. (publisher abstract modified)