No longer jocks versus nerds: Views on rural and suburban positive youth development (PYD) and school climate


School climate plays a critical role in nurturing PYD and safe, positive schools (Lindstrom-Johnson et al., 2011). The purpose of this study was to gauge high school decision-makers' awareness, beliefs, and program ideas regarding school climate, bullying, and PYD. Participants included athletic directors, school counsellors, and safe-schools officials from three West Virginia counties representing five high schools. Nine staff participated in the hour-long semi-structured interviews, producing nearly 200 transcribed pages. Participants were typically white (n = 8) and male (n = 7), and their students were estimated to be mostly white (typically over 90%). Two pilot interviews were conducted and member check procedures were utilized after the analysis (Patton, 2014). Interviews were transcribed verbatim by one of the coders, and proof read against the audio recording by the second coder. Open codes were identified independently before reaching consensus, then arranged thematically by the two coders and primary investigator (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014). Results described Students, Programs, and Bullying in their schools. Participants believed that it was very difficult to label students as belong to a single clique because students are involved in many groups and have friends in other groups—there are rarely/few 'Jocks' who only participate in sport. That said, students who participate in sport are highly influential (along with 'High-Academics'). Participants described formal programs and informal factors (e.g., peer mentoring, positive environment, etc.). Frequency of bullying, attitudes towards it, and who is involved were also described. The discussion will address how the results affect the implementation of PYD programs in Northern-West Virginia schools.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this study was provided by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and from the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at WVU.