August 3, 2008

Is immigrant status relevant in school violence research?

An analysis with Latino students.(Research Article)(Report)
Publication Date: 01-JUL-08
Publication Title: Journal of School Health
Format: Online
Author: Peguero, Anthony A.


Are immigrant status and English-speaking proficiency pertinent factors in relationship to detrimental school violence-related student outcomes (ie, violent and property student victimization, fear, and formal disciplinary school sanction), in particular for Latino students? With the increasing population of Latinos in our society, school violence researchers have begun to investigate the unique school experiences of Latino students. However, the findings are not always consistent. The rates for Latino students fall in between the least likely and the most likely group to be exposed to school violence in comparison to white and black students. (1,2) As a result, it appears that Latino students' experiences with school violence are distinct in comparison to other racial and ethnic groups as well as within the Latino population. These inconsistent findings beg the question--what makes Latino students' experiences with school violence unique? As a result, some researchers suggest that the relationship between student immigrant status and school violence-related outcomes warrants further research. (2,3)

Importance of Investigating Latino Student Victimization

According to the 2000 US Census, about 43% of the Latino US population does not have a high school degree. Furthermore, Latino high school students are less likely to attend postsecondary institutions in comparison to white, black, and Asian students. (4-6) Latino students have relatively lower achievement scores, (7) attainment, (4) extracurricular activity involvement, (8) and educational aspirations (9) in comparison to their white counterparts.

Because education is a vital commodity toward establishing adult economic stability, investigating the overall school experience for Latino students is imperative. Hence, this research study focuses on examining the possible importance of investigating the relationships between immigrant status-related variables and school violence-related outcomes for Latino students. Since previous literature on the relationship between immigrant status and school violence is limited, comparable school and community criminology research is examined.

Immigrant Status, English Proficiency, and Latino Students' School Experiences

The factors of immigrant status and English-speaking proficiency are extensively examined in educational literature. Immigrant children are more likely to drop out of high school than US native-born students with US native-born parents. (5,10) Other educational research findings indicate that immigrant children's perceptions of achievement and attainment differ in comparison to US native-born students. (7) Other studies have also revealed distinctive relationships between immigrant children and their levels of achievement. (9,11,12) Furthermore, Bohon, Johnson, and Gorman (2006) (13) found that immigrant status was linked to educational college aspirations and expectations.

Immigrant status has also been found to be an important factor with many school-related experiences for students. Kao and Tienda (9) argue that it is not the student or child's place of birth that was relevant to his or her relationship with educational attainment but rather the student's parent's birthplace. There are differences between first-, second-, and third-generation immigrant students and their educational achievement. There are distinctions between first- and second-generation immigrant students in relationship to their scholastic performance or educational achievement. However, both first- and second-generation immigrants outperform third-generation immigrant (also referred as US native or nonimmigrant) Latino students. Immigrant status, educational achievement, and English-speaking skills are also closely associated. (9)

The role of English proficiency for immigrant children is associated with a number of student experiences within US schools. Immigrant children with thick or heavy accents or with low English-speaking capabilities are often subjugated to negative treatment such as discrimination, ridicule, and harassment from other students, teachers, and school administrators. (14,15) Bilingual immigrant children, in comparison to immigrant children with low English proficiency, have higher test scores, higher self-esteem, lower levels of depression, higher educational and career aspirations, and fewer conflicts with parents. (11) Furthermore, in 2003, Gebhard (16) finds that limited English proficient (LEP) students are often placed in classes or academic tracks far from the mainstream classes. As a result, LEP students often have fewer opportunities to converse with and learn from native US English-speaking students, which in turn hinder their academic progress.

Although previous research in education suggests that immigration status may be another student factor in understanding ethnicity and school violence-related outcomes, (12,17) few studies investigated the relationship between student immigration status and experiences with violence. School researchers provide evidence that immigrant status is an important factor associated with a variety of detrimental student outcomes for immigrant students. Immigrants status is a significant factor with dropping out, (18,19) low achievement scores, (11,12) drug use, (11,20) and gang involvement. (1) However, the degree and the type of relationship between immigrant status and the aforementioned detrimental outcomes vary depending upon a number of immigration-related factors, as well as being first-, second-, or third-generation immigrant students.

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