Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Hilary Landorf

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Haiying Long

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Laura Dinehart

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Eric Dwyer

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


community violence, youth gun violence, trauma-informed classroom, youth perspective, youth empowerment, survey development

Date of Defense



Community violence surrounding children and youth affects a variety of developmental outcomes, including social-emotional, behavioral, physical, and cognitive domains. Adolescents who are exposed to continual community violence can respond with aggression, anxiety, behavioral issues, academic problems, and truancy. The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a survey instrument that measures the youth perspective of the classroom experience following the loss of a schoolmate due to homicide by firearm. Youth perspectives challenge normative perspectives and can critique common policies and practices, and such findings can inform instruction and policy.

An exploratory sequential mixed methods research design was used to provide validity and reliability evidence for the instrument. The study included four phases and incorporated trauma-informed principles. Phase 1 was a qualitative phase that utilized nine experts, examining for validity evidence of test content. Phase 2 established validity evidence based on cognitive response processes by conducting cognitive interviews with 11 youth that had recently lost a schoolmate due to gun violence. Phase 3 was a pilot study assessing the reliability and structural aspect of validity with 50 youth by using Cronbach’s alpha and exploratory factor analysis. Phase 4 was a full scale study with 181 youth assessing the same reliability and validity evidence as in phase 3. The four phases follow a sequential process, in which the results of each phase led to revisions of the instrument. The Cronbach’s alpha in phase 4 showed an excellent reliability and exploratory factor analysis results indicated three factors: Creating a Trauma-Informed Learning Environment; Trustworthiness and Transparency; and, Empowerment, Voice and Choice. This research study produced a valid survey which can be utilized as a tool to better prepare and inform educators, administrators, and curriculum and mental health specialists in communities experiencing high levels of gun violence. In addition, data gathered from youth can assist in informing organizational policy and procedures developed to support youth following the loss of life of a schoolmate.





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