Dr. Matthew J. Cuellar, assistant professor of social work at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, has been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative to conduct research on effective school safety systems.

The initiative was created in a response to disturbing, high-profile incidents of school violence. Schools are mostly safe places — but when violence does occur, it can have far-reaching ramifications. The initiative also is an investment in developing knowledge about the root causes of school violence, developing strategies for increasing school safety, and rigorously evaluating innovative school safety strategies through pilot programs.

Dr. Cuellar will serve as primary investigator on the grant. He and a team of researchers will work within a large urban school district outside of New York City to examine the extent to which different school security climates affect student connectedness, student behavior and ultimately academic performance. The grant has two primary objectives: to identify the most effective types of school security climates and determine how school security climates affect individual student performance over time.

Dr. Cuellar’s research is expected to fill a critical gap in the school safety literature that will assist school-based mental health providers in targeting interventions towards underachieving or disadvantaged students in inner-city school systems.

Dr. Cuellar received both his BSW and MSW from The University of Alabama School of Social Work. He earned his PhD in Social Work from University of Tennessee and is currently employed at Yeshiva University in New York City.

Read more about Dr. Cuellar’s research and grant award.