Effect of school conflict on the secondary principal's role

No Thumbnail Available
DeWitt, Gerald D. (Gerald Dean), 1923-
Park, Don L.
Issue Date
Thesis (D. Ed.)
Other Identifiers

The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of conflict situations in secondary schools on the role of the secondary principals and the resulting impact the principals had on their own schools. The study examined and assessed changes of the role of the principal during or following periods of intensive student unrest. The research was planned to answer thirteen questions in four areas about the principal; and when the questions were tabulated or scored, they revealed the beliefs of those interviewed concerning the principal's attitude, his relationships, his self-image, his philosophy, his performance, and the nature of student conflict and its effect on the principal's role. Through personal interviews, the investigator collected data from the superintendent, the principal, three teachers, and three students from each of seven midwest secondary schools. The selected student population from each school consisted of an elected student government leader, an influential non-elected student leader who was a liberal or militant, and a non-militant regular high school student. The teacher population included a proadministration veteran; a relatively inexperienced teacher; and a militant, radical or liberal teacher who was anti-administration. From the perceptions of those interviewed about the effect of school conflict on the secondary principal's role, conclusions were drawn and recommendations were made to assist principals yet to face student unrest to better prepare themselves to prevent unrest or to be more effective in dealing with it when it occurs. Review of the data led to the following conclusions: Secondary principals are sincere and are committed to creating an educational climate whereby teachers can teach and students can learn; however, principals are frequently insensitive to signs of student unrest and are not appropriately prepared professionally or psychologically for student confrontation. They visualize their personal and professional relationships with students and teachers as far more effective than teachers and students judge them to be, and principals frequently are satisfied with a reduction in conflict while failing to stimulate and implement meaningful change to permanently reduce the chances for conflict to reoccur. Generally, teachers and principals have little understanding of the behavioral sciences and have had little opportunity for exposure to conflict from dissident students and parents prior to assuming their respective assignments. Further, they have not updated themselves in recent changes in the law and its applications to problems of student conflict. Student conflict has added to the complexity of the principal's responsibilities resulting in severe frustration to principals, teachers, and students due to the enormity of the problems and the principal's lack of skill in identifying solutions. Prior to conflict, students and teachers had viewed their principal as a respected school leader, but this high regard deteriorated as the school was subjected to conflict. Community resources rarely were used by schools to assist in solutions for unrest problems, and principals did not effectively involve staff and students in decision-making. Principals had had little access to recent or instant retrieval of information about their own student body and, thus, made decisions regarding grievances and conflict without having the facts. Principals were unsophisticated in the proper uses of repression to control unrest and were also unsophisticated in the necessary methods such as compromise, negotiation, and collaboration to avoid repression techniques. Principals recently have not viewed their role as an enjoyable one due to the additional responsibilities related to student unrest; they see the extra effort, additional pressures, and greater demand on their time as excessive and physically and emotionally exhausting.