Leadership in Gang-Impacted Schools: How Principals Lead in Schools That Have Less Gang Activity Than Their Community

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Virginia Tech


A safe (free from gang activity) and disciplined school environment conducive to learning is mandated by federal legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act. Research has concentrated on reasons for gang activity in the school and the community as well as leadership in general but there is a void in the literature as it relates to the type of leadership in schools that is successful in limiting gang activity in schools that are less gang-impacted than the community from which they draw. Research questions include: (1) what do principals say about how they lead in gang-impacted schools that have fewer gang-related incidents than the community from which they draw their population and (2) what is the connection between principal leadership style and the presence of relatively fewer gang-related incidents in schools than in the community from which they draw their population? This phenomenological study answered the question of how principals lead in gang-impacted schools with a more favorable environment than the communities they serve through interviews, observations and document analysis. The final product is the portraits and stories of principals' relationships with gang-impacted schools and the central concept of leadership in these types of schools. According to the three participants interviewed in this study, both transactional and transformational leadership attributes are necessary to lead a gang-impacted school that has fewer gang-related incidents than the community from which it draws. The underlying conclusion in this research study is that leaders who display more transformational leadership than transactional leadership attributes are more successful in gang-impacted schools. As a result of this study, principals who are placed in schools identified as being gang-impacted will be better equipped to identify and practice leadership behaviors that have worked for other school leaders. In addition, school districts will be better able to identify and provide staff development to and for potential leaders as it relates to leadership.



academic achievement, school violence, school safety, gangs, leadership behaviors