College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Dr. Samantha Viano to study effects of school security measures on marginalized students

October 25, 2022

Mason Education Leadership Assistant Professor Samantha Viano, along with faculty from the University of Wisconsin, are recipients of a nearly $1.7 million federal grant, awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), to examine whether school safety and security measures may have negative academic, behavioral, and social effects on low-income students and students of color. The Institute of Education Sciences is the independent and non-partisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education which was established to provide scientific evidence on which to base education practice and policy. Grant funding through IES is highly competitive and the recent announcement of Dr. Viano’s selection for this award is indicative of the high caliber of Mason’s Education Leadership program within the College of Education and Human Development School of Education.

The study will be conducted over the course of three years and researchers are hopeful that it will provide insight on whether the use of security measures at schools adversely impacts students who are already marginalized. To date, little research has been done on whether the use of commonly adopted security measures at schools, intended to keep students and personnel safe, could be having a harmful impact on economically disadvantaged students and students of color. Many critics have raised concerns over the issue of equity as related to the use of security measures and practices at schools.

Dr. Samantha Viano
Dr. Samantha Viano

In conducting the study, researchers will analyze data from respondents that was collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and compiled in the following surveys: School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002 (ELS), and the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (SCS). Collectively, these four surveys contain information on a variety of academic, behavioral, and social trends representing the perspectives of thousands of students, teachers, and principals of different populations. The data analysis will focus on issues of equity, examining how responses differed by race and income at the individual level and by racial and socioeconomic composition at the school level. In the data analysis, the researchers will examine how the presence of school security measures, including security camaras and ID badges, could have an impact on outcomes such as graduation rates, grade point averages, school crime rates, access to drugs, student-teacher relationships, and the frequency of student volunteering.

In the next phase of the study, researchers will conduct a replication analysis linking student-level outcomes to the use of school security measures using data from a school district in Tennessee. The researchers will then conduct mixed case studies set in ten high schools in each of two diverse school districts: one in Tennessee and another in Virginia. In the case studies, researchers will assess schools’ use of security measures through observations, interviews, and focus groups. Schools with varying levels of security will be compared across a wide range of academic, behavioral, and social outcomes.

Upon the conclusion of the study, the research team will create briefs for practitioners and policymakers explaining their findings. They also intend to develop practical guidance about which security measures promote the most positive and negative outcomes. Their findings will be presented at conferences and will appear in peer-reviewed publications. The research team also intends to disseminate its findings to the public through a website that will be created.