Date of Award



© 2020 Jaslene Atwal

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Bryan Corbin

Third Advisor

Andrew Lindridge


There is a need to clearly communicate expectations and consequences of misconduct to deter students from engaging in negative behaviors that create a physically or psychologically unsafe learning environment at school. A poor school climate has been found to have a detrimental effect on student achievement. A positive learning environment can transform negative situations into positive ones and have a beneficial effect on student behavior and achievement. This study explored the effect of a proactive discipline program on students’ perceptions of their physical and psychological safety in rural middle schools. The research questions for this study asked what factors most influence students’ perceptions of their own physical and psychological safety and does the pattern of office referrals for discipline reflect students’ perceptions of their own safety? The participants of this study were 1047 grade seven students across six middle schools in a rural school district in Western Canada. Documentation was gathered from a three-year period from 2016 to 2019 and includes office referral data from the MyEducation database and the Student Learning Survey data from each school for the three academic school years.

This researcher found a pattern that indicated students at middle schools with lower numbers of office referrals felt psychologically safer. In middle schools with low numbers of office referrals students felt a high sense of belonging, more welcomed in the school, that adults treated them more fairly, they understood human rights and respected diversity, considered others in their decision making, more heard by adults in the building, respected differences and used less nicotine and alcohol products. Conversely in schools with high numbers of office referrals students felt bullied less, felt safer travelling to and from school and had lower levels of school related stress and anxiety which suggests that students in schools with higher number of office referrals feel physically safer. Office referrals are only one measure of student behavior, and additional data need to be collected to further examine these patterns. There is a need for policy reform to ensure that school wide behavior intervention systems and conflict resolution skills are taught to staff and students so that more proactive measures are taken to prevent poor behavior from occurring.


Ed.D. Dissertation

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