Hardening Schools, Targeting Students: Minoritized Students, School Security, and the School-Prison Nexus
Samantha Viano

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



George Mason University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
“Target hardening” is common parlance in law enforcement and the military to cover a variety of methods for increasing security of particular areas or for specific people to deter crime and violence. This term has gained popularity in reference to schools, as schools implement an increasingly broad set of school security measures. Previous research on school security, like school resource officers, raises grievous concerns about the potential ways in which increased security bind minoritized students into the school-prison nexus, but we have little understanding of the effects of a broad set of school security measures. This study leverages potentially exogenous variation in funding receipt from a competitive grant program for schools to purchase a wide-range of school security. With student-level administrative data from the state’s education agency linked to juvenile justice records, I will assess whether newly purchased school security differentially impact minoritized students. These findings will be among the first causal impact estimates of the effects of a wide-array of modern school security measures on minoritized students including on educational outcomes like exclusionary discipline as well as carceral outcomes like students’ probability of arrest, thus providing empirical evidence on school security’s role as part of the school-prison nexus.
About Samantha Viano
Viano, Samantha
Samantha Viano is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. Dr. Viano earned her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College after an MSEd from Northwestern University. Her research critically examines endemic challenges in PreK-12 schools and evaluates the effects of the chosen solutions on traditionally marginalized and racially minoritized students and their teachers. Specific research strands that fall within this agenda include school improvement, school safety and security, and high school graduation policies in addition to researching how to better integrate critical theory into quantitative analysis in educational research. Dr. Viano is an expert witness for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Education Opportunities Section for her expertise on school safety and security. Dr. Viano’s research has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Review of Research in Education. Dr. Viano’s research has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Justice in addition to the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award.

Pin It on Pinterest