Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A mixed methods study of school board member decision-making in student drug violations: Extending the fletcher et al. attributional complexity survey with individual interviews
by Orndorff, Albert Leslie, Ed.D., Shenandoah University, 2015, 194; 3738941
Abstract (Summary)

One of the major initiatives found in the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1995 was a focus on school safety and security relative to the perceived negative impact of violence generated from guns and illicit drugs. This tougher stand manifested itself in the federal requirement that states adopt laws requiring the expulsion of students for drug violations unless special circumstances were determined to exist. If special circumstances existed then another disciplinary action may be administered. Special circumstances are not defined in the federal law and have not been defined in the subsequent Virginia law. The lack of clarity in the federal and state laws, and their application by school boards has yielded nearly 25 years of widely varying sanctions by local divisions for student drug offenses.

This mixed methods research study analyzed the relationship between the individual school board member’s level of attributional complexity (AC) measured by the Fletcher et al. AC scale and their decision-making in assigning a disciplinary sanction in student drug violations. This research study also analyzed school board members’ level of AC in decision-making with the accumulated hours of training provide through the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA), years of experience as a school board member, level of confidence in the decision made, and a school board that delegates to the superintendent authority to conduct a preliminary hearing compared to a board that does not delegate the hearing. Individual follow-up interviews extended exploration into other possible factors that influenced decision-making in student drug cases.

The explanatory design methodology provided a structure for identifying trends in judicial decision-making by school board members to aide in explaining how each independent variable may affect the individual participant level of AC. This mixed methods study has a strong quantitative orientation with the final report having two distinct consecutively developed sections. The second qualitative section is built on further explaining the emerging trends in school board decision-making. The survey asked participants if they were willing to participate in a follow-up interview. From this pool of volunteer participants, a purposeful selection was conducted of varying demographic elements to ensure coverage of varying levels of AC, large and small school divisions, gender, age, training and board experience.

The statistical analysis of the quantitative questions suggests that there are no statistical significant differences between the individual level of AC of a school board member and any of the aforementioned factors. The qualitative phase of the study suggests that decision-making is contextual to the individual school board. This context consists of a combination of factors with the dominate theme including the recommendation of the superintendent, and the board’s interpretation of appropriate sanctions grounded by a strict or flexible application of code and policy. Secondary decision-making factors which emerged were: 1. student accountability through assignment of discipline; 2. the need to maintain a safe drug-free environment for all students; 3. the need to continue the drug-violating student’s educational development; and, 4. the need for drug dependency assessment and intervention.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shiffman, Catherine D.
Commitee: Daniel, Sarah R., Kellison, Dennis
School: Shenandoah University
Department: Leadership Studies
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Social psychology, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Attribution theory, Attributional bias, Attributional complexity, Causal, Decision-making, School board
Publication Number: 3738941
ISBN: 9781339294681
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