In the wake of tragic incidents, such as school shootings, the subject of school violence has gotten more attention in the past decade than in previous years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (Juvenile offenders and victims:1999 National report, 1999) , the actual occurrence of violent death in school is much lower than the media portrays. Between 2001 and 2002, 17 school age victims died in school related deaths, (including accidents and suicide) as opposed to the 1999-2000 school year, in which 32 violent school-related deaths occurred. Sadly, student reports of being bullied increased from 5% to 8% in 2001 as reported in Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2002. In order to maintain a clear view of the issue, it is important to keep in mind that school violence can include emotional and physical ridicule or bullying, assaults, threats, sexual offenses, as well as the less apparent but equally important components of graffiti and vandalism, trespassing and gangs.
The topic of school violence is one that affects all of society. Aside from interfering with the learning process, the long range effects of school violence affect us all. Statistically, children who engage in bullying behavior are more likely to become adult criminals. (Taub, 2002) Many children who display violent behavior at school are exposed to violence or abuse outside of school and may be in need of help from adults. Frequently, school mental health professionals and social workers are the main providers of mental health services for children. (Stein et al., 2003)
Awareness of potentially violent behavior and early intervention are crucial components in helping kids at risk. Equally important is caring for children who have been victims of school violence. It is common for children to keep quiet about episodes of victimization due to shame, embarrassment and fear of escalated violence. Children who are victimized in school crime often suffer from decreased self-esteem, truancy, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and in extreme cases, suicide and violent retaliation.
Bullying Online has listed warning signs and strategies for talking with your child if you suspect that they may be a victim of bullying. Adults are strongly encouraged to pay attention to unusual behavior in children that may be an early indication that a child may be a victim if violence, or at risk for violent behavior.
If you are a student who is being exposed to school violence or bullying,
the American Psychological Association has designed a website
for young people devoted to dealing with violence.
The distribution of serious school violence varies widely by community. Serious school violence occurs most often in urban schools. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, rates of school violence tend to mirror those of the general population. Typically, community violence in inner cities is more prevalent than in rural areas, which may partially prove that community violence has direct effects on children. The majority of the research to date suggests that violence is a learned behavior, so children who are acting out in violent or aggressive ways may have learned violence by repeating the violent behavior of adults. With this in mind, one can see why early intervention among school aged children is an important element in stopping the cycle of violence.
Children who are exposed to school violence need assistance from adults. Parents, educators, administrators, school mental health workers, police and other health and safety providers have a responsibility to children to provide them with the safest possible learning environment as well as keeping themselves informed about the violent issues and experiences that children face every day. Most schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy against school violence. Anti-violence interventions that are available may include conflict resolution, good citizenship instruction, peer mediation training for children, and early warning sign and crisis response education for adults.
Juvenile offenders and victims: 1999 National report. (1999). Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.
Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N., et al. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 290(5), 603-611.
Taub, J. (2002). Evaluation of the Second Step Violence Prevention Program at a rural elementary school. School Psychology Review, 31(2), 186-200.
- In a 2003 survey of high school students, 17.1% had carried a weapon to school during the 30 days preceding the survey. (Grunbaum J.A. et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance - United States, 2003. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2004 May 21;53(2):1-96)
- 71% of public elementary and secondary schools experienced at least one violent incident during the 1999-2000 school year, according to school principals (Violence in U.S. Public Schools: 2000 School Survey on Crime and Safety, October 2003)
- In 1999, 12% of 12- through 18- year-old students reported experiencing "any" form of victimization at school. (The Condition of Education 2002 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2002.)
- In 1999, 12- through 18-year-old students living in urban and suburban locales were equally vulnerable to serious violent crime at school. (Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2001 )
- In 1999, one in six teachers report having been the victim of violence in or around school. This compares to one in nine teachers in 1994. (The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher, 1999: Violence in America's Public Schools - Five Years Later, Metropolitan Life, 1999)
- Nationwide, 15% of high school students had participated in a physical fight in 1998. (Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999)
- 57% of expulsions for bringing firearms to school involved high school students, 33% involved junior/middle school students, and 10% involved elementary school students. (Gun-Free Schools Act Report: School Year 1998-1999, U.S. Department of Education, October 2002)
In the Literature
- After-school programs to promote child and adolescent development: summary of a workshop. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Committee on Community-Level Programs for Youth. J.A. Gootman, ed. Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington , D.C. : National Academy Press, 2000.
- Antisocial behavior in school: evidence-based practices. 2 nd edition. Hill M. Walker, Elizabeth Ramsey, Frank M. Gresham. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004.
- Behavior psychology in the schools: innovations in evaluation, support, and consultation. James K. Luiselli, Charles Diament, editors. Haworth Press, 2002.
- Conflict resolution communication: patterns promoting peaceful schools. Melinda Lincoln. Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Eduation, 2002.
- How to prepare for and respond to a crisis, 2 nd edition. David J. Schonfeld, Robert Lichtenstein, Marsha Kline Pruett, Dee Speese-Linehan. Alexandria, VA : Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2002.
- Juvenile offenders and victims: 1999 National Report. Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund. Washington, CD: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999.
- A Practical guide for crisis response in our schools, 5 th edition. Mark D. Lerner, Joseph S. Volpe, Brad Lindell. New York: American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, 2003.
- Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. Katherine S. Newman. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
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