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School Violence Essay, Research Paper

There has been a lot of discussion on what the typical child murderer is like. Many people think that there is a stereotype of a kid that would have violent tendencies. In the most recent school shootings, the killers weren t all drug addicts or loners. Some of them were intelligent, young people. One of the kids was a straight A student. Yet another had a lot of friends, and was active in School Violence 3school activities. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two students who opened fire at Columbine High School were the killers who were the most discussed throughout the press. They had been involved in a group called the Trenchcoat Mafia. They were noted as being outcasts, with a lot of other kids in school making fun of them. When interviewed after the violence occurred, many of these shootists admit that they don t know what drove them to do it. In cases, like several others, the kids try to say that they were insane at the time. Still, by the way the trend is going, it seems that the children that are doing these terrible things are the ones who aren t very popular and who are made fun of. It is also safe to say that the murders just want to get rid of the kids that made fun of them. It is important to realize that there are other children who simply don t know how to channel their anger in a positive way. We, as a society, tell adults that they should channel anger into productive sources such as by exercise, or by doing housework. In children, they aren t capable of knowing how to channel their anger. In an article by Barbara Kantrowicz, she gives advice on how to talk to different age groups about dangers, attitudes, and violence. Young children need to be reassured. They don t realize that death is permanent, and therefore can t differentiate between real and fake violence. Elementary school children need to have the dangers of weapons explained to them. In this age, it is important to encourage them to talk about worries that they may have, and also to limit their exposure to media violence. Early adolescents are beginning to become more independent, and it is important to keep dialog going with them, to School Violence 4keep parents aware of potential problems. In teenagers, it is important to not decide that attitudes are just a phase. (1999) If parents keep on top of situations in their child s life, then that child will be more likely to express feelings of anger in a more positive way, rather than act out. There are also a wide range of communities that these acts of violence are happening in. These occurrences are happening in varying social and economic communities. In the past few years, Americans had been approached with the question of whether the schools in their communities are safe from violence. The most tragic of recent school shootings didn t occur in a large city such as New York or Los Angeles. It happened on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado, a small rural community that unfortunately became known around the world in such a tragic way. Whether they live in the inner city or [in] the most serene suburb, . . . [parents] now know that their kids are not immune from the threat of guns [in the schools] (Kantrowitz, 1999, p.39). Parents have become increasingly aware of what is going on in public school systems. This is partially the reason that home schooling is on the rise. Home schooling may not be the best answer for parents because the children don t always have the social development from being around their peers. With parents, it seems that they decide to just pull their children out of the situation because it seems to be the safest thing to do. The best thing to do would be to advocate more for safety, rather than pulling the children out. All of the recent shootings have been making parents more aware that even though they live in a wealthy or small town, no one School Violence 5 is safe from violence. Although it does not matter where these school shootings are occurring, another important aspect of school violence includes some of the factors that can increase the risk of violent behavior in children. According to numerous research studies that were conducted by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the factors that contribute to violent tendencies in children and adolescents include: Previous aggressive violent behavior Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse Exposure to violence in the home and/or community Genetic (family heredity) factors Exposure to violence in the media (TV, movies, etc.) Use of drugs and/or alcohol Presence of firearms in the home Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family) Brain damage from head injury (http:www.aacap.org/factsfam/behavior.htm) In the media, journalists have tried to pick apart the tragic school shooting At Columbine High school. Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold, the suspected killers, had shown several of the above mentioned factors, yet there was no action taken in order to prevent the shooting. Both of the boys have had past arrests for such things as vandalism and petty theft. They also played violent video games on the Internet, and recorded violent video scenarios off the television for school projects. Harris was also diagnosed and on medication for numerous psychological disorders. The most shocking of all of the evidence is that both ofSchool Violence 6the killers assembled all of their pipe bombs in Harris garage and bedroom without the parent s knowledge (Skeesis, 1999, p. 1). The surprising thing is that no one thought that there was anything wrong with them. The police, parents, or teachers never took further action with the boys in order to have them evaluated before the shootings happened. It is vitally important to be aware of any violent tendencies early in a child s life. The earlier that these behaviors are detected and treated, the easier it will be to rehabilitate the child. Although these warning signs are very important, there are many reasons why school violence occurs. The Internet, music, television, movies, and video games have all been labeled as causes of child violence. All of these things are everywhere, and it is impossible to isolate kids from every violent act or suggestion. Examples of media violence are to follow. Every day, children are exposed to movies that display a wide range of violent acts. In the movie The Basketball Diaries, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a teenager who is ridiculed at school and who gets heavily addicted to heroin and cocaine. In one scene, he is tripped out in the bathtub and he has a dream: he is dressed in a long, black trenchcoat and he goes into his school and opens fire on all of the classmates that have ridiculed him and the teacher that gave him a hard time and who never really liked him. In this dream, his friends are just sitting in their seats watching

as others get their heads blown off. When young children see this film, they sometimes cannot distinguish between what is real or fiction. Many kids think that violence such as this is cool, and such behavior is acceptable. I think that it School Violence 7is important to note that in the Columbine shooting, the boys were wearing long, black trenchcoats, carrying big machine guns, and only shooting the people that ridiculed them. Watching this film and thinking about what those children went through at Columbine and thinking about what the survivors saw is heartbreaking and extremely horrifying. Television causes another connection between children and violence. If children are exposed to various amounts of violence on television, then there is a likelihood that they will begin to be desensitized to violent acts and possibly become more likely to be involved in violence. In an article by Henry Mietkiewicz, he states that . . . [t]he more TV violence a youngster watch[es] in a given year, the more likely he or she . . . [is] to display an increased aggression during subsequent years (article 79). Music is also an outlet for children getting ideas for violence. Eminem, a rap singer, has extremely violent lyrics in his songs. In one song, he sings, Hi kids, do you like violence? Wanna see me stick nine inch nails through each one of my eyelids? Wanna copy me and do exactly what I did? . . . By the way, when you see my dad, tell him I slit his throat in this dream I had. (Leland, 1999) It is not certain if these words are the result of symbolism, but many young children don t realize that it is just a song. As far as the Internet goes, there are sites from everything from how to make homemade bombs to layouts of schools to devise a plan, to terrorist websites. There aren t many restrictions when it comes to the Internet, and if there is an adult-only website, any ten year old can say that they are eighteen. As with video games, over one-third of the top 100 games are School Violence 8graphically violent. Parents aren t aware all the time of the games that they purchase. If a child plays a game (there is one called Sniper) in which the object of the game is to collect guns and blow people s heads off. It goes back to a child being able to differentiate between fiction and nonfiction. It is believed that if parents can monitor their child s intake of violent media and materials, then a decrease in school violence is likely to occur. In order to solve this problem, there needs to be legislative as well as local actions taken in the order of punishment and prevention. Legislatively, if more of these kids who murder in school are tried as adults rather than being in jail for only four years (in some states if a fourteen year old murders someone, then that child can only be in jail until age eighteen), then it would probably make a child think twice about what he or she is getting into. Another legislative solution could be a restricting of mass gun sales, making it harder for people to sell guns in the black market and therefore making it more difficult for children to get there hands on a gun. Locally, it is important to have a staff of police officers in schools to allow a safety measure for the students and faculty, as well as a quicker response time for local law enforcement backup to arrive in case a tragedy does strike. Some other local techniques that could be helpful are to set up some anonymous hotlines for students to report other suspicious students, support groups in school for troubled children, and also some groups and activities for the students and their families to get together so that the children don t feel neglected at home. Sharon Begley recognizes some programs and policies that School Violence 9help to reduce the risk of antisocial behavior in children: 1. Early-childhood intervention: programs such as Parents as Teachers and First Steps to Success offer developmental screenings of children up to age 5 and help parents cope with difficult children 2. Zero tolerance for bullies: the littlest victims can grow up feeling alienated and ready for revenge. Schools should monitor playgrounds and hallways to prevent bullying.3. Smaller schools: high schools work best when enrollment is between 600 and 900. In a school of this size, fewer fewer students are marginalized, and more kids are likely to be part of an extracurricular activity with an adult role model.4. Multisystemic therapy: an innovated, at-home program in which a therapist teaches parents how to enforce rules, keep their kids from bad influences, and help the child hook into a support network (1999) Just as there are more than one reasons why school violence occurs, there are many possibilities that can be thought of in order to help solve the problem. Obviously there isn t one idea that is going to solve the entire problem. In order to prevent violence in the school system, it is vitally important for the schools, communities, as well as the government to all work together to provide the necessary programs and support networks. It seems that in today s society, everything is about trying to get somewhere faster, and with many dual earning families it is hard for parents to get together with their children and just listen to School Violence 10them. If we can all work together, that would be a major step forward in the battle against school violence. The problem of school violence includes many different facets. Whether it be something small like a hallway fight or as devastating as a shooting, school violence as a whole affects people of every race, religion, and creed and usually is the result of one s issues of wanting to feel in control after being pushed around or just wanting to be in the spotlight. As we have just entered into a new millennium, children are able to gain greater access to knowledge of violent ideas, whether it be through the Internet or by the programs on television. The problem that I believe is the most interconnected with this subject is the decline in morals and family values. When children are first born, they don t have knowledge of anything. All of the behaviors are learned from somewhere. If families came together and learned right and wrong from each other, then I don t believe that school violence would be as bad as it is today. Are the kids learning methods of violence from television or the media? I guess that it is hard to say. It seems that as our society is getting more technologically advanced, we tend to lose sight of what is important. Family values of yesterday are not valued today. As seen in the old black-and-white television programs, the entire family sat down for dinner and talked about their day. Children had no reservations going to their mother or father for advice, and problems were talked through. It is not to say that technologically we should be back in those times, but overall family relationships have worsened. Problems School Violence 11with children should be considered more rather than just thrown aside. As a society, Everyone is so concerned with status, that some of the children that come from poorer families don t get attention that they deserve. All children need to be heard and all feelings and comments need to be taken seriously. It all needs to start in the home. Children need to feel respected and loved. They need to feel that they are important. If all of the violence is due to a lack of attention, so be it. The violence problem is not getting better as time goes on, and to the same degree, so are family values.

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