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The number of extremely violent crimes occurring in schools has been increasing over the last three years. Incidents that deal with school violence occur 16,000 per school day, which is equivalent to once every six seconds (Kipnis 11). School violence has been around since the1950’s, but back then it was more an issue of juvenile delinquency than violent behavior (Baker 3). Crime in and around schools is threatening the well being of students, as well as the staff and surrounding communities. When looking at the urgent problem of school violence one must take into account several factors including the characteristics of the offender, the causes for the violence occurring, and the solution techniques.
To act out violence, in school, against each other, is the common definition for school violence (Gerson 15). The characteristics of the offender play a great role in being able to prevent school violence. Parenting failure has been found to be the number one cause for the violence occurring in schools (Futrell 2). When students were polled in 2000, seventy-one percent stated that there was a lack of parental supervision in their homes (Futrell 5). Sixty-six percent of those polled also stated that there was little if any family involvement in their school activities (Futrell 5). Students who have been abused, neglected and/or received little support from a caring adult are extremely likely to show their frustrations with violence (Kipnis 2). The home life problems of students definitely contribute to school violence. Currently, fifty-seven percent of children under the age of ten have two working parents or a single parent, and more than ten million students return to empty homes everyday (Kipnis 19).
Another factor that contributes to school violence is peer pressure (Volkoh 4). Thirty-four percent of students believed that school violence occurs because of peer pressure (Futrell 9). Peers of violent offenders believe that the offenders take place in the violent incidents to fit into a crowd and do not think about the repercussions (Baker 33). Peer pressure is the fastest growing factor contributing to school violence (Gerson 46).
Another factor that has been found to contributing to violence occurring in schools is drugs and alcohol. When investigated, prevention groups found no variation in the convenience for students to access drugs and alcohol (Kipnis 73). Students with different family incomes, location, and different ethnic backgrounds had the same access (Kipnis 74). In the last two years the consumption of alcohol during a school violence incident has increased thirty-nine percent (Futrell 6).
Society believes that violence occurs only in bad neighborhoods; this is false (Gerson 39). School violence has been found in all neighborhoods. In rural neighborhoods, school violence occurs ten percent of the time, occurs thirty percent in suburban schools, and occurs sixty percent in urban schools (Kipnis 69). Violence is also occurring at all school levels. It has been found that thirty percent of the violence occurs in elementary schools and seventy percent of the time occurs in secondary schools (Kipnis 70). School violence has also been found to occur more in males than females. Males are the victims of school violence eighty-three percent of the time and are the offenders ninety-four percent (Kipnis 4).
With violence in schools rising, teachers and parents need to know what to look for in a violent offender. It has been shown that many violent offenders have the same characteristics and give many warning signs, but they go unnoticed (Baker 41). Characteristics that teachers and parents should look for in children are persistent disregard for or refusal to follow rules, lack of interest in school, absence of age-appropriate anger control skills, depression or mood swings, artwork or writing that is bleak or violent or that depicts isolation or anger, and self-isolation from family and friends (Futrell 5).
School violence is also taking place with different types of weapons. Since 1997, an increase in guns being used to carry out violent acts in schools has increased three percent (Volokh 14). In 2000, it was shown that in violent acts in school, knives or razors were used fifty-five percent of the time, clubs or baseball bats twenty-five percent of the time, and firearms twenty percent of the time (Volkoh 11). Inner-city school students report carrying a weapon in school twenty-five percent of the time, and forty-four percent reported carrying weapons out of school (Gerson 21). Weapons being brought to school have become a real concern for school administrator’s and parents.
Many schools have placed police officers full time on school grounds. The full-time presence of law officials, while rare at elementary schools (one percent), was found in ten percent of middle schools and nineteen percent of high schools (Volkoh 6). It was also reported in thirty-nine percent of large schools with 1,000 or more students, in thirteen percent of city schools and schools with fifty percent or more minority enrollment, in fifteen percent of schools in which principals felt there were some serious discipline issues, and in twenty three percent of schools in which at least one serious crime was reported in 1996-97 (Futrell 3). With all the school violence going on in the United States little has been done to prevent it from occurring.
Researchers began to take a hard look into school violence once the Columbine shooting took place on March 20, 1999 (Kipnis 38). Since the Columbine shooting, school boards have been addressing the problem of school violence through multiple approaches: education; prevention; and intervention of both the staff and students (Kipnis 94).
Early intervention is believed to be the best approach to preventing school violence (Kipnis 16). Early intervention is applied through counseling and mentoring programs placed within each school for students and teachers who believe they or other students are having a problem (Kipnis 22). Mandatory safety programs have also been placed in schools that are implementing the early intervention programs (Kipnis 27). Safety programs allow students and teachers the opportunity to be taught how to deal with violence if it occurs. This allows the students and teachers to feel a little at ease that, if something were to occur, they would be prepared.
Another suggestion that school boards and researchers have recommended for schools to prevent school violence is discipline codes (Futrell 13). These discipline codes should be determined by each school system. They should also be clearly defined to all the parents, students, and teachers each year. Principals in each school also need to look at the discipline codes as a positive influence and not negative. They should also encourage to students to look at them the same way. A final suggestion that has been given to schools is that the discipline codes should be enforced firmly, fairly, and consistently (Futrell 6).
An additional approach many school systems have implemented is staff training (Futrell 10). Of teachers polled in 2000, fifty-two percent, stated that they interacted more with their students did then with the students’ families (Futrell 8). Many teachers also said that they could see violent features in students starting as early as pre-kindergarten and also see that nothing is done about these students (Kipnis 77). Staff training at schools should include strategies to work with families outside of school and work with the surrounding communities.
One final approach that administrators and parents need to take in order to prevent violence from occurring within schools is to try and reduce the stress of students (Baker 61). It has been shown that fourteen percent of students that had committed violent acts on school grounds had very high levels of stress (Baker 83). A way in which schools can implement this suggestion would be that all students go though a required evaluation with a psychologist on a monthly basis (Gerson 165). This would allow the school administrators to take a closer look into their children’s minds and be able to prevent problems that arise from the stress of the children. This could lead to a decrease in violent acts performed on school grounds.
Students and teachers are feeling increasingly unsafe in school. Teachers polled in the Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teachers showed that one out of every six teachers had become a victim to an act of school violence (Kipnis 22). In 1997, Children’s Institute International Poll of American Adolescents surveyed students, and forty-seven percent thought their schools were becoming more violent (Volkoh 6). Ten percent of these students were also in fear of being hurt or shot by other classmates (Volkoh 7). Twenty percent of students polled were also afraid to go to restrooms because the restrooms were unsupervised and were the target spots for many violent acts (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1998). Many schools have taken steps to allow the children and teachers to feel at ease while they are at school. Some steps many schools have chosen to put into place are random locker checks, video cameras, and metal detectors near the front entrance (Futrell 8).
Studies have shown that in order for school violence to be prevented all of the intervention programs mentioned above need to be in place (Baker 98). One school should not just implement one of the suggestions. William Modzeleski of the U.S. Department of Education once said, “There is no one program, no silver bullet, so that you can get one program up and say, Here it is if you put this program in your school, you are going to resolve violence.”(Kipnis 30) On April 15, 2000, President Clinton granted the public school systems in the United States $41 million in grants, which went to twenty-three communities to make schools safer and to prevent violence occurring with in schools (Futrell 11).
School violence has increased forty-three percent in the last three years (Volkoh 12). Sixty-two percent of students and thirty-eight percent of teachers are in fear of becoming victims to the new trend of school violence (Kipnis 106). Violent behavior taking place within the school systems does not just affect the victims; it affects all the students and staff. Acts of violence carried out during school affects the student’s ability to concentrate on their academics. Something needs to be done so students and teachers can get back to the real reasons for school; the academics. Violence in our schools—whether it involves threats, fistfights, knives, or firearms—is unjustifiable and unendurable.
Baker, Falcon. Saving Our Kids from Delinquency, Drugs, and Despair: Solution through Prevention. New York: Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books, 1991.
Futrell, Mary Hatwood, Powell, Lee Etta. “Preventing School Violence.” September 1998. Columbia University.
Gerson, Mark. In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School the Works. New York: The Free Press, 1997
Kipnis, Aaron PhD. Angry Young Men. New York: Penguin. 1999
Volokh, Alexander, Snell Lisa. “School Violence Prevention: Strategies to Keep Schools Safe.” January 1998. Reason Public Policy Institute.
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