Zelinka Studies Teacher Perceptions About Substance Abuse, School Violence

By Purnell T. Cropper | July 7, 2010

Emily T. Zelinka, who earned a Master of Public Health from Arcadia University in May, conducted her thesis on “An Exploration of Teacher Perceptions Regarding Substance Abuse and Violence Within High and Low Performing High Schools.”

“Because of the inevitable effect of violence and substance abuse on academic achievement, and consequently health, addressing these two issues within the educational system is an important public health initiative,” wrote Zelinka in her abstract. “ There is extensive research regarding the measurable outcomes from substance abuse and violence, but there less evidence regarding individual experiences and perceptions about the effects of violence/substance abuse.”

The goal of her study was to investigate teachers’ perceptions of the relationship between situational violence/substance abuse as deterrents in high school education that may ultimately manifest as health disparities. “The participants consisted of seven public high school teachers who had been teaching for at least two years. The questionnaire was an e-mail-based, qualitative survey of 14 questions that examined teachers’ opinions of school environment, performance measures, administration, and substance abuse/violence in the context of student health, safety, and academic performance.”

Zelinka found that “important themes from the study included teacher frustration with school performance categorization, concern for student apathy, and frustration at the overwhelming factors that adversely affect student academic performance and health.

“The results,” she concluded, “provide important information from an educator’s perspective about the efficacy of public school policies on individual student behavior, important influences on academic performance, and ultimately, health status.”