Nurturing School Climate: The Power of Teacher and Peer Support for Empowering Victimized Youth

Coyle, S., Weinreb, K. S., Davila, G., & Cuellar, M. (2022). Relationships matter: The protective role of teacher and peer support in understanding school climate for victimized youth. In Child & Youth Care Forum (Vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 181-203). 

Summarized by Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study

A positive and supportive school climate has been found to have a significant effect on student academic, behavioral, and emotional well-being. When examining school climate three key domains stand out: safety (which relates to emotional and physical security), engagement (encompassing interpersonal relationships and respect for diversity), and environmental factors (school organization and communication of rules). However, the interactions between these domains and how they are influenced by students’ interpersonal experiences like victimization and social support remain less explored. The researchers of this study focused on how students’ perceptions of support from both teachers and peers might mitigate the negative impact of victimization on their perceptions of school climate, specifically safety and equity. The study delves into the unique protective roles of teacher and peer support, particularly in low socioeconomic status (SES) settings as lower SES schools often face higher rates of victimization. 

Key Findings:

  • Results highlight the crucial role of social support from teachers and peers as protective resources for students, contributing to perceptions of school safety and equity.
  • When both teacher and peer support were high, students perceived their schools as safer and more equitable, showing evidence of a buffering effect against the negative impact of victimization.
  • Victimized students with high teacher support but low peer support reported increased perceptions of school safety, while the opposite was true for those with high peer support but low teacher support.
  • Low support from both teachers and peers heightened the association between victimization and negative perceptions of school safety and equity, emphasizing the significance of supportive relationships for overall school climate perception, especially in economically disadvantaged contexts.

Implications for Mentoring

One of the main implications of this study is that teacher support is particularly important for victimized students’ perceptions of school safety. This is possibly due to teachers’ role as authoritative figures in addressing behavioral issues. With this the study highlights the differing ways that both peer and adult support are important. Overall the findings from this study underscore the importance of social support when it comes to understanding students’ perceptions of the link between victimization and the school environment. In particular it highlights how increased social support is important for improving victimized students’ perceptions of school culture. Based on these results and implications it can be argued that evidence-based mentoring programs have the potential to aid in establishing supportive networks, particularly for victimized youth. In particular the role that teachers and other adults play in student feelings of safety and equity show potential for mentoring to have similar positive effects. Future research should explore various programs aimed at fostering positive school relationships. Furthermore, specialized interventions that bolster adult support at school, particularly for those experiencing victimization, warrant exploration. This is an area where mentoring has the potential to play an important role. Developing effective strategies for connecting youth with teachers and ensuring bullying-related issues are properly addressed is vital. It’s imperative for schools to establish clear protocols to address victimization and provide professional development to help educators effectively support victims. Ultimately, these results underscore the fundamental role of social support in cultivating safe and equitable school environments.

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