Purpose: Schools enact behavioral policies (e.g., dress codes, truancy policies) to enhance social control and create safe environments. Following the Theory of Social Disorganization, we hypothesize that poor social control measured by violations of behavioral policies is associated with greater rates of school crime. Methods: We collected incidence of behavioral policy violations and crime from security reports maintained by a South Los Angeles school district of 19,365 students during two school years (2003-2005). Weekly counts of policy violations and crime were modeled by use of the Generalized Linear Models fit using Generalized Estimating Equations based on an autoregressive correlation structure. Results: Greater rates of school policy violations were associated with greater rates of school crime. The strongest association was between substance use violations and crime (high school: rate ratio [RR], 3.4, 95% confidence limit [CL], 2.6-4.6, middle school: RR, 3.8, CL, 2.6-5.4, elementary schools: RR, 2.4, 95% CL, 1.6-3.6). A one-unit increase in the weekly truancy rate per 1000 students was associated with a sixfold increase in the crime rate at the middle school and a 10% increase at the high school but had no apparent association with crime in elementary schools. A one-unit increase in the weekly dress code violation rate was linked to a 20% increase in crime at the high school. Conclusions: Collective adherence to school behavioral policies may increase social control and reduce disorganization, which may in turn contribute to a positive safety culture and reduced violence at school. Interventions to increase adherence to school policies are needed particularly during early adolescent school years.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the Office of Public Health Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant no. K01-CD000196 ), and the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center supported by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant no. R49 CD001167 ).
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