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School Violence: Vol. 13

School Violence
School ViolenceVolume 13 – Page 1
Are there Warning Signs?
Why don’t we see it coming?? 

The week of  June19 – 23, 2000 we unfortunately remember the terrible tragedy of last April at Columbine High School. What makes this tragedy extremely scary to educators and parents alike is that Columbine seems like everybody’s neighborhood school. There was not any real gang activities. There was not any glaring indication that it would be the place of a massacre. Yet it was. Let’s remember that there were signs though, but hard to see and without training almost invisible.  What concerns the rest of us is that it could conceivably happen in our school, too. How widespread is school violence (See Map)? Are we safe in our schools? What can we do to ensure safety for everyone and Lock Out Violence Everyday? These are the questions this article addresses. As always, however, I wish to have your input. Please drop me your opinion by email me with your comments and concerns.

How Prevalent is School Violence?

The following information comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics(NCES).  A national study was conduced with Principals in 1,234 regular public elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the 1996-7 school year. What were their findings?

  • 57% of public elementary and secondary school principals stated that one or more incidents of crime or violence were reported to the police

  • 10% of all public schools had one or more serious violent crimes (murder, rape, sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery)

  • The most reported crime was physical attacks or fights without a weapon

  • Most of the serious violent crimes occurred in the middle and high schools

  • A larger percentage of violent crimes occurred in city schools and in large schools (over 1000 students).

Remember when reading these statistics that 43% of public schools reported no crimes and 90% had no serious violent crimes. Taking that into consideration, however, we have to admit that violence and crime does exist, and is not necessarily rare, in the school setting.

When teachers, students, and law enforcement officials were asked about their feelings about school violence in the Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher: 1999, they revealed that their overall perceptions were that violence was decreasing. However, when asked about their personal experiences, one-quarter of the students reported having been a victim of a violent crime in or around the school. More scary yet, one-in-eight students had at some time carried a weapon to school (Gun Violence Prevention). Both of these statistics were an increase from the previous survey conducted in 1993. We must fight against this complacency without overreacting. We must fight to make our schools safe. But what can we do?

Combating School Violence

Whose problem is school violence? The answer is all of ours. Just as it is a problem we all must deal with, it is also a problem we all must work to solve. The community, the administrators, the teachers, the parents, and the students must come together and make schools safe. Otherwise, prevention and punishment will not be effective.

What are schools doing right now (what other schools are doing)? According to the above-mentioned NCES survey, 84% of public schools have a ‘low security’ system in place. This means that they have no guards or metal detectors, but they do control access to school buildings. 11% have ‘moderate security’ which means either employing a full-time guard with no metal detectors or controlled access to the buildings or a part-time guard with controlled access to the buildings.

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