BACKGROUND: Numerous studies have demonstrated an association between characteristics of the school environment and the likelihood of school violence. However, little is known about the relative importance of various characteristics of the school environment or their differential impact on multiple violence outcomes.
METHODS: Primarily African-American students (n = 27) from Baltimore City high schools participated in concept mapping sessions, which produced interpretable maps of the school environment's contribution to school violence. Participants generated statements about their school environment's influence on school violence and, with the assistance of quantitative methods, grouped these statements according to their similarity. Participants provided information about the importance of each of these statements for the initiation, cessation, and severity of the violence that occurs at school.
RESULTS: More than half of the 132 statements generated by students were rated as school environment characteristics highly important for the initiation, cessation, and/or severity of school violence. Participants identified students' own actions, expectations for disruptive behavior, and the environment outside the school as the characteristics most important for the initiation and increased severity of violence that occurs in school. Participants had a more difficult time identifying school environment characteristics important for the cessation of school violence.
CONCLUSION: This study provides support from students for the role of the school environment in school violence prevention, particularly in preventing the initiation and reducing the severity of school violence. Schools can utilize the information presented in this article to begin discussions with students and staff about prioritizing school environment changes to reduce school violence.