Mary Margaret Kerr - Publications

Book Chapters

Kerr, M. M. (in press). School violence. In Routledge Encyclopedia of Education
Kerr, M. (2019). School Crisis Prevention and Intervention. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Oxford University Press.

A school crisis unexpectedly disrupts the school, causes emotional and physical distress and requires extraordinary decisions and resources to restore stability. During a crisis, teachers and administrators are the first decision-makers. Yet, their training may not prepare them for this responsibility. Hence, educational psychologists have identified a temporal framework of recommended practices to guide educators’ decisions before, during, and after crises.

Pre-crisis work includes prevention, planning, and training. During the initial prevention phase, the school community assesses school safety, communicates risk, and mobilizes efforts to lessen danger. Next, school teams plan, train, and practice crisis protocols that guide them during an incident. The crisis response phase thrusts educators into rapid collaborations with emergency responders to prevent casualties and reduce exposure to trauma. Post-crisis efforts seek to restore psychological safety through the restoration of social supports, then address acute mental health needs. A return to schooling, ongoing supports for victims and responders, and evaluations to improve school crisis responses comprise the final goals.

Kerr, M. M. (in press). School Violence. In Routledge Encyclopedia of Education

Educational leaders engage in school violence prevention to deter school shootings, assaults, bullying, theft, and property damage. Although schools remain largely safe places for most students and staff members, student and staff victimization occurs. To address school violence in its many forms, educational leaders must pursue a comprehensive school safety approach that incorporates these elements: monitoring and mapping risk; universal, targeted, and intensive student supports; safe environmental design; security measures; threat assessment; and crisis preparation.

Kerr, M. M. & Price, R. H. (2018). "I Know the Plane Crashed": Children's Perspectives in Dark Tourism. In P. Stone, R. Hartmann, T. Seaton, R. Sharpley, & L. White (Eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies, London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Thousands of children visit dark sites each year with their families or classmates. Yet, current theories about dark tourism do not account for children’s experiences. Kerr and Price suggest four factors that warrant research to understand young tourists’ experiences at dark sites: incomplete understanding of death, lack of agency in choosing destinations, youthful exploratory behavior, and emotional vulnerability. The authors examine the promise and peril of applying research methods from other fields to children at dark sites, including observation and listening, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and children’s artifacts. Kerr and Price discuss their study of children’s artifacts left at the Flight 93 National Memorial, a site where a hijacked airliner crashed on 9/11. The chapter concludes with considerations for future research and interpretive practice.
Valenti, M.W., Kerr, M.M., & King, G. (2016). Evidence informed suicide prevention in schools, 8th Edition. In C. Massat, R. Constable,& M. Kelly (Eds.). School Social Work. Chicago: Lyceum Books.
Commission on Adolescent Suicide Prevention, (2005). In Evans et al. (Eds.), Treating and preventing adolescent mental health disorders: What we know and what we don't know. (pp. 434-493). New York: Oxford University Press, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
Kerr, M. M. (2002). Preventing and Addressing Crises and Violence-Related Problems in Schools. In Handbook of School Mental Health Advancing Practice and Research (pp. 321-334). Springer US.


Adolescents frequently travel on school excursions or with their families, yet little is known about their experiences. Included in their destinations are historical sites that commemorate human suffering, including memorials associated with terrorism. The current study analyzed written responses from 133 adolescents who were participating in school excursions to the Flight 93 National Memorial. Qualitative coding suggests that adolescents grasped the importance of the memorial and were able to reflect on issues related to death and dying. Adolescents experienced negative emotions such as sadness, yet their feelings did not detract from the visit. This study sheds light on an overlooked adolescent visitor experience and reveals that school excursions to painful heritage sites may offer opportunities for adolescents to confront and discuss difficult topics, such as death and terrorism. More
Kerr, M. M., Price, R. H.*, Savine, C. D*., Ifft, K*., & McMullen, M. A. (2017). Interpreting terrorism: Learning from children's visitor comments. Journal of Interpretation Research.

Thousands of children visit memorials and other dark heritage sites each year, yet researchers have rarely studied their experiences. Faced with limited prior research, interpreters at terrorism-related sites grapple with especially serious and unanswered questions about how best to engage young visitors. To address these concerns, the staff of the Flight 93 National Memorial, erected at the crash site of an airline hijacked on September 11, 2001, partnered with an interdisciplinary team of researchers. The team studied children’s post-visit comments at the Memorial, adapting the content analysis methods of prior researchers who studied visitor comments, logs, and books. Children exhibited patriotism, grateful remembrance, emotional realizations, and a sense of place as they struggled to make meaning of the events. These findings led to relevant and understandable interpretive activities, which now comprise the Junior Ranger program for young visitors. The paper suggests implications for future research on interpreting terrorism-related events.

Kerr, M. M., Fried, S., Price, R. H., Cornick, C. & Dugan, S. (2017). Rural children's responses to the Flight 93 crash on September 11, 2001. Journal of Rural Mental Health.

Few researchers have the opportunity to study children’s experiences in the days immediately following a disaster, especially in the case of terrorism. No investigations to date recount the experience of rural children on September 11, 2001. This paper describes recently discovered letters that 76 sixth graders in two nearby schools wrote days after terrorists crashed United Flight 93 into a field in rural Western Pennsylvania. Thematic coding revealed key themes in each set of letters. The letters from the school closest to the crash revealed children’s recollections of the day, coping strategies, and community pride. Letters from the school further from the crash reflected children’s gratitude and empathy for the recovery workers at the crash site, with fewer recollections of the day. Findings shed new light on the neglected issue of rural children’s reactions to terrorism and suggest new methods to document their unique perspectives, interactions, and roles in the days immediately following a disaster. This paper highlights the need for research on children’s letter writing in post-disaster situations.

Price, R. H., & Kerr, M. M. (2017). Child's play at war memorials: insights from a social media debate. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 1-14.
Each year, thousands of children visit memorials and other heritage sites during family or school trips, yet heritage scholars possess little understanding of their experiences. Despite its absence from the scholarly literature, children’s exploratory play at war memorials recurs frequently in the popular media. Extensive social media interest suggests that public sentiment, often emotional and vividly expressed, deserves study as a potential influence on children’s experiences at these and other dark heritage sites. This paper provides new insights of behavioral expectations for children at memorials, based on content analysis of 150 comments on a viral social media post picturing children playing on the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Conducting a stance analysis of comments, we considered commenters’ behavioral expectations, meanings they ascribed to memorials, and rationales for their intensely worded positions. Commenters shared several values: that memorials represented soldiers’ sacrifice, veterans’ service, general places for respect or to do what is right, or artistic value. Yet despite these shared rationales, many commenters expressed polarized opinions of children’s play at memorials. Commenters also referenced memorials and battlefields worldwide. This study provides greater understanding of the cultural context of children’s visits to memorials and other sites of painful heritage. More
Despite instructors' belief that class readings are integral to the learning process, only 20–30% of undergraduate students complete required readings. Failure to complete course reading has been associated with declines in exam and research performance. This article first offers a brief review of the literature on why students do not complete course readings: 1) unpreparedness, 2) lack of motivation, 3) time constraints, and 4) an underestimation of reading importance. We then identify approaches that encourage students to read, enjoy reading, and develop metacognitive knowledge, shown to improve learning. More
Kerr, M. M., & Price, R. H. (2016). Overlooked encounters: Young tourists' experiences at dark sites. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 11(2) 177-185.
This research note reviews the existing literature comprised of dark tourism articles and
chapters mentioning children. Publications meeting the search criteria were few.
Accordingly, we offer possible reasons for the scarcity of research on children in dark
tourism, including the legal constraints when researching with minors, the academic
risk in undertaking a new field of research, and the substantial expertise needed to
engage children in studies. We conclude with the compelling reasons to undertake
such research: to inform interpretation of emotionally provocative sites for children,
to understand and mitigate children’s psychological distress at dark sites, and to
advance theoretical work on children as tourists. More
Kerr, M. M. & Brown, E. L. (2016). Preventing school failure for teachers, revisited: Special educators explore their emotional labor. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 60(2) 143-151.

This paper describes a study conducted collaboratively with 19 special educators to learn about their emotional practice through the emotional labor framework. Emotional labor refers to the management of emotional expression in the workplace. Specifically, the study sought to a) deconstruct the stressors these special educators perceived, b) understand how they use emotional labor, and c) discern how this theory might inform special educators’ practice. All participants divulged daily stress at work. Furthermore, all conceded that they used emotional labor to conceal their feelings from students; most acknowledged such acting as a survival skill. Teachers expressed relief at having a language for their emotional work, suggesting that the theory offers a framework for supporting special educators as they face the emotional demands of the job.

Brown, E. L., Valenti, M., & Kerr, M. M. (2015). Building Emotional Supports: How Teachers' Emotional Labor Informs Therapeutic Alliances for Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Report on Emotional & Behavioral Disorders in Youth.
Brown, E. L., Horner, C. G., Kerr, M. M., & Scanlon, C. L. (2014). United States Teachers' Emotional Labor and Professional Identities. KEDI Journal of Educational Policy, 11(2).

Experts have sought ways to explore emotional aspects of teachers’ professional identities. Through a mixed method design, this study investigated teachers’ professional identities through one component of teaching—emotional labor, or the way in which employees display or conceal their emotions to achieve workplace goals. Four hundred sixty- eight K-12 teachers in 22 U.S. schools completed The Emotional Labor of Teaching Scale and described their surface acting, deep acting, and perceived emotional display rules through open-ended questioning. Findings revealed that 100% of participants engaged in emotional labor. Second, schools rarely communicated emotional display rules explicitly. Finally, when teachers’ feelings conflicted with their image of the ideal teacher, participants admitted “playing the role” by pretending to be warm and caring teachers. Implications are relevant for teacher preparation, supervision, enrichment, and retention.

Kerr, M. M., & Valenti, M. W. (2009). Controls from Within the Classroom. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 17(4), 30.


Kerr, M. M. and King, G. (2018). School crisis prevention and intervention, 2nd Edition. Waveland Publishing, Inc.
Kerr, M.M., & Nelson, C. M. (2010). Strategies for addressing behavior problems in the classroom, 6th Edition. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company.
Kerr, M. M. (2009). School Crisis Prevention and Intervention. Merrill/Pearson.


Shaffer, A. & Kerr, M. M. (2015). "Can you tell my child what happened here?"--- Explaining the Story of United Flight 93. Ranger. [Magazine of the Association of National Park Rangers]
Kerr, M. M., Shaffer, A., Hartman, M. (2104) Interpreting the Flight 93 Crash for Children: A Collaborative Evaluation Project. Legacy: The Magazine of the National Association for Interpretation, July/August, 2014
Mary Margaret Kerr


University of Pittsburgh
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Pittsburgh, PA 15260