Many school-based prevention programs seek to understand the school climate, identify areas in which the climate could improve, and change those areas. Aspects of school climate have been shown to be associated with teen dating violence directly, and it also is related to several risk factors for sexual and dating violence. For instance, lack of social support, poor parent-child relationships, and low educational achievement are risk factors for dating and/or sexual violence among youths. Beyond grade school, the White House’s Not Alone campaign recommends using climate surveys on college and university campuses to help identify the nature and extent of the problem of sexual assault on a certain campus.
College and University Campus Climate Surveys
According to the White House’s Not Alone campaign,
“The first step in solving a problem is to name it and know the extent of it – and a campus climate survey is the best way to do that.”
“Schools have to get credit for being honest – and for finding out what’s really happening on campus. Reports to authorities, as we know, don’t provide a fair measure of the problem. But a campus climate survey can. When done right, these surveys can gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, test students’ attitudes and awareness about the issue, and provide schools with an invaluable tool for crafting solutions.”
College and university campus climate toolkits:
- Not Alone toolkit
- Carnegie Mellon: How to assess departments resource page
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Assessment resources
- Rutgers: Understanding and Responding to Campus Sexual Assault: A Guide to Climate Assessment for Colleges and Universities Campus Climate Survey, Teacher School Climate Survey, Parent Survey, and Optional Question Bank
- Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Consortium (ARC3): The Administrator‐Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey is the result of ongoing efforts by student and legal affairs professionals, campus advocates, students, campus law enforcement, and sexual assault and harassment researchers, groups of whom met in Atlanta, Georgia in October 2014 for the Georgia State University Forum on Campus Sexual Assault and in February 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin for the Madison Summit on Campus Climate and Sexual Misconduct. Survey can be requested here.
- The Ohio Domestic Violence Network, in partnership with state and campus stakeholders including the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, created a campus climate survey. It is available for free and can be accessed here.
Examples of college and university climate surveys:
- University of Oregon Survey of Campus Climate regarding Sexual Misconduct
- MIT Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault survey
- Rutgers #iSpeak Campus Climate Survey
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network and Dr. Sandra Ortega’s Campus Climate Survey, including religiosity module
- North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Campus Climate Survey for Students, Campus Climate Survey for Faculty, Instructors, and Parent Survey
Examples of results from college and university climate surveys:
- UC System wide climate survey results
- San Jose State climate survey results
- Case Western Reserve climate survey results
- University of Oregon climate survey results
Based on a PreventConnect blog on Resources for School Policy Change there are 12 resources with school policy change efforts including Model Policies, Resource Websites, and Policy Briefs.
Website: Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
Web Conference: Keeping the Climate Study Data and Other Reports Off-the-Shelf
Talking Points: “Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct”
Policy Brief: Addressing Bullying and Adolescent Dating Abuse
Grade School Climate Surveys
According to the National School Climate Center:
“School climate refers to the quality and character of school life. School climate is based on patterns of students’, parents’ and school personnel’s experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures.
A sustainable, positive school climate fosters youth development and learning necessary for a productive, contributing and satisfying life in a democratic society. This climate includes:
- Norms, values and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe.
- People are engaged and respected.
- Students, families and educators work together to develop, live and contribute to a shared school vision.”
The National School Climate Center also states that “[s]chool climate is at its core about healthy, positive and connected relationships.”
As noted above, a positive climate includes having peers and teachers and administrators whose actions create and maintain an environment in which students feel safe. This aspect of school climate relates closely to bystander intervention. Many school climate-related bullying prevention efforts emphasize bystander intervention as a way to curb bullying and to improve school climate through a more supportive, safe environment. Conversely, school climate surveys can reveal barriers to bystander intervention, such as lack of support or even punishment by teachers and administrators for intervening or a perception that there will be insufficient consequences for bullies. In addition to bullying prevention, these relationships can be valuable for promoting bystander intervention against sexual harassment, sexism, rape-supportive comments, and sexual assault.
School climate work often involves administering a survey, focus groups, or key informant interviews at a baseline time, conducting a program based on identified issues in the school climate, and repeating the survey, focus groups, or key informant interviews. Many states, school districts, and individual schools already administer school climate surveys. If you are working in a school that has already assessed its school climate, that information can be useful for informing your prevention program.
If the school has not assessed its climate, there are several publicly available resources for assessing school climate:
- Toolkit for districts and schools
- California Healthy Kids Survey — asks questions related to school connectedness and school supports, community supports, physical, verbal, and emotional violence victimization and perpetration, harassment victimization, peer supports, and more. That could make this process much easier. You could still do a survey if you wanted, but you could build on what these results tell you already.
- California School Climate Survey
- California School Parent Survey
- New Jersey School Climate Survey
- North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s K-12 School Climate Survey for Students, K-12 School Climate Survey for Teachers, and Parent Survey
- School Climate Quality Analytic Assessment Instrument and survey protocol
- Center for the Study of School Climate (right side of the screen)
- The following surveys are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from the National School Climate Center. However, they can help give practitioners an idea of the kinds of questions that can be asked to assess school climate.
When designing a school climate assessment, as when you’re designing any assessment, always consider what information is most important for you to collect. If, for instance, you think you want to improve gender equity and/or bystander intervention, it would be advantageous to collect data on students’, teachers’, and administrators’ perceptions of gender equity, common gender inequitable attitudes, school policy related to gender, the rate of students intervening, the rate of teachers intervening, possible barriers to intervening, etc. It may also be helpful to use a prevention theory to guide the questions you ask.