Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

Major Professor

Matthew T. Theriot

Committee Members

John G. Orme, Mary L. Held, Lois Presser


A primary objective of the school social work profession is to maintain equality and empower students while promoting educational achievement for troubled and disadvantaged youth in schools. They are among the leading mental health care providers for youth in United States schools today. As school social workers are increasingly being used in United States schools, many find themselves working within practice contexts with complex security environments. These environments can introduce a number of complexities to their practice as well as the students they serve; however, the relationship between school safety strategies and school social work practice, and the role school social workers play in protecting students’ rights in complex security environments has not been adequately researched. This dissertation examines evidence for the validity of an instrument designed to measure two distinct types of school safety strategies and various school social work practices as outlined by a widely accepted school social work practice model. Using data collected with this instrument, this dissertation then explores the responses of 229 school social workers across the United States to determine: 1) the extent to which student- and school-level factors predict the implementation of authoritarian and educational/therapeutic safety strategies; and 2) how these types of strategies influence school social workers’ engagement in various practices as outlined by The School Social Work Practice Model. Results suggest that authoritarian and educational/therapeutic strategies both have significant effects on the types of practices in which school social workers engage. Findings have implications for school social work practice and for improving the effectiveness of commonly implemented school safety strategies that will remain fixtures in United States schools. This study serves as a next step in understanding school safety in United States schools by discussing how the school security environment might affect school social workers in practice.

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