The problem of violence in schools today is a major concern. Crime in and around schools threatens the well being of students, as well as the school staff and the surrounding communities. It also holds back learning and student achievement. The problem is more defined in the public school system than in catholic schools. Catholic schools seem to express a better-rounded teaching environment. Most catholic schools have less tolerance than they do in public schools. It is said that the wearing of a uniform helps to keep more peace in the school. The students do not get made fun of for not wearing brand name clothing. The laughing and making fun of the other students is what contributes to low self-esteem, which one of the traits for a student who is likely to bring violence into school. More than half of U.S. public schools have reported at least one crime incident in 1997. Also one in ten schools reported at least one serious violent crime during this school year. Ten percent of all public schools had experienced one or more serious violent crimes (e.g. murder, rape, suicide, sexual battery, and physical attack of fighting with a weapon or robbery) reported to police or other law enforcement during 1997. Crime and violence seem to be more of a problem in middle and high schools than in elementary schools. In 1997 forty-five percent of elementary schools reported one or more acts of violence. Seventy-four percent of middle schools and seventy-five percent of high schools had reported incidents of violence. One of the goals of the National Education Goals states that by the year 2000, all schools in America will be free of drugs and violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol, and offer a disciplined environment that is conducive to learning. This goal has obviously not yet been reached, but there still is some time left for them to reach this goal. The crimes that are most frequently occurring in most schools are vandalism, theft/larceny, and physical attack or fight without a weapon. Six percent have reported physical attack or fight with a weapon. Even though the percentage of weapon related crimes is not as high as many of the rest, it is still one of the biggest and must be eliminated. It is the one of the worst acts of violence that could happen in a school. The school administration should adopt a policy that will help to eliminate the violence. They should either consider a zero tolerance strategy or something similar. The school environment should be a safe one for staff and students. Students should be able to go to school and not be concerned with any in or outside forces that will distract them from learning, or injure them in some way. Many potentially violent incidents continue to plague schools. School administrators are reviewing security and crisis plans, but many administrators are quick to point out that there is no one answer to providing a safe school environment. Everyone wants a simple solution, but the is not a one. People have to work towards getting and maintaining school safety. But no matter how well prepared or how safe everyone thinks a plan to be; it will never be one hundred percent foolproof. Someone will always find a way to get around even the most strategized effort to control the violence. Most incidents could and can be prevented by students, parents, teachers, or citizens coming forward and sharing the information that they know with either the school or police. It is known that prior to a major violent attacking, in most schools someone knows that it is going to happen other than the person who is planning it. But they do not go forward because they think that something like that could never happen in their school. Violence can happen anywhere, at any time. For example, take the Jonesboro incident or Columbine, it is common knowledge that someone knew about what the students were planning, but did not share it with the school or police officials. Schools should pay attention to not only the major incidents like Columbine, but also to the smallest threat. Schools in Allen, Texas, cancelled the remaining two weeks of classes due to repeated bomb threats. But after parental and community outrage, officials opened the schools on a limited basis a few days later. Four boys were charged with plotting a shooting in their Port Huron, Michigan, middle school similar to the massacre at Columbine. Reaction like these should always be taken to incidents as such. It prevents the tragedies like Columbine and others from happening again. A common trend in most school shootings is that they have all occurred in communities in which people felt safe. The perception of schools as being safe havens has changed over the past few years since the rash of shooting incidents. But the fact still remains that schools are the safest places for children. But, still, schools have always been easy targets for violence. Even though the number of violent incidents in schools is dropping, the use of firepower by students is growing. Lately, medal detectors, security cameras, ID cards, and other security hardware and systems have been finding the nation s schools as a home. This is mainly due to the need to show students, staff, and parents that security measures are being taken. Schools should be safe enough that they there is no need for security devices as such. Although medal detectors are very useful, but they are only part of the solution. Schools must also look at other prevention methods. Administrators have agreed that they will not find just one specific solution to the school dilemma that would be one hundred percent effective. Something that must be changed is the fact that in every incident in the last two years, the kids have spoken about their act before the committed it. And for some reason or other, adults have refused to pay attention to it. It must be changed. People listen to a cry for help when they hear it, why not this? It is basically the same thing; they should pay just as much attention to it. Safety is not a sometimes thing, it is an all-the-time thing, students should be able to go to school and feel safe. It has been said that violence on television has been a contributor to kids committing these acts of violence. But is this really true? Sure, the violence on television is a contributor. But it is not as big a contributor as most people make it out to be. Most of the students, who do commit crimes in school, all fit basically the same profile. They were alienated, angry and had a history of emotional problems. They are students who hold a grudge. Most of these students often write about these things in advance, they perhaps signal that they are going to happen. Experts say that there is no foolproof way to spot potential killers. But, by early next year, the FBI will release a report listing problematic traits to help educators and parents identify the seriousness of a student s threat. The report will detail warning signs in four areas of a student s life: 1.) Personality, 2.) Family, 3.) School behavior, and 4.) Other factors such as drugs and alcohol. This report should be very helpful to the parents and administration in controlling the safety of their school. Some of the indicators of what would make a student turn to violence are: social withdraw, excessive feelings of isolation and persecution, and a history of aggressive behavior. The question of what went wrong early on in these kid s lives is brought up more that one. It is wondered what made them into killers where they would go out and without any conscience just kill people, their friends and classmates and then themselves. No one will ever know except for himself or herself. What steps should be taken to helping kids like this? Having school psychologists is a good idea; they are traditionally the first lines of defense. But lately they have been preoccupied in assessing kids who need to help with learning disorders. Many schools are now adopting zero tolerance policies, pulling out kids who do anything suspicious. This works, but not always. When a school expels a student for something like violent imagery in creative writing, it is an overreaction. Or the twelve year old boy in Virginia who was expelled for waiving a stapler around on a school bus; a Florida girl was suspended for bringing a nail clipper to class, and the suspension of a nine year old boy who wrote you will die with honor when his teacher asked him to compose a fortune cookie message. It is all-ridiculous. There is no reason to go that far. The zero tolerance rule is a good idea, but not for things like that. But for a kid who brings a gun to school or a kid who starts a fire in the school, they should be removed immediately, with no questions asked. Zero tolerance polices should cover clear and serious offenses involving weapons, violence, threat, harassment, bomb scares, drugs, alcohol and cheating. Not in simple matters like those mentioned above. Crime rates in the United States are decreasing which is very good. Statistics show that crime rate in the U.S. has declined 6.4 percent and the murder rate has declined 7.4 percent in 1998. A poll shows that forty years ago, fifty percent of Americans reported having guns in their homes. Last year the figure was thirty-five percent. Which is good. This lessens the easiness of a child getting a gun to bring into school. A New York Times/CBS poll asked kids if they worry about being crime victims at school or on the streets and twenty-four percent said yes. So, obviously the kids are not as concerned about a killer attending their school as the adults are. It is not clear at this point if schools are engaged in another cycle of violence or if we have evolved into a society whose culture has embraced violence as a characteristic and permanent feature. It is argues that the youth of today are coming more and more from backgrounds where antisocial behavior is more normal rather than unusual. These young people are highly agitated and invested in antisocial attitudes. They tend to see the behavior and intentions of others as biased against them. They frequently decide to react aggressively to situations they view as challenging or threatening, very often with tragic consequences. This kind of aggression and reaction is what makes the schools dangerous. There are four factors that generally accelerate youth violence. They are: 1.) Easy access to weapons, especially hand guns, 2.) Early involvement with drugs and alcohol, 3.) Association with antisocial groups and 4.) Pervasive exposure to violent acts depicted in the media. Eight-one percent of weapons brought to school come from the home. A safe school is characterized as effective, accepting, freedom from potential physical and psychological harm, absence of violence, and being nurturing, caring, and protective. Some school based protective factors are positive school climate and atmosphere, clear and high performance expectations for all students, good values and practices throughout the school, strong student bonding to the school environment, high levels of student participation and parent involvement in social development, and schoolwide conflict-resolution strategies. An unsafe school is characterized by lack of cohesion, chaotic, stressful, disorganized, poorly structured, ineffective, high risk, gang activity, violent incidents, unclear behavioral and academic expectations. Some risk factors are poor design and use of school space, overcrowding, lack of caring but firm disciplinary procedures, student alienation, rejection of at-risk students by teachers and peers, anger and resentment at school routines and demands for conformity, and poor supervision. Impacts and influences of school violence are: 1.) Large schools and classrooms of students, that prevents teachers from developing meaningful relationships with students and 2.) Overcrowded schools normally have higher rates of discipline problems and vandalism than schools that are at or below the enrollments for which they are intended. We must begin to reform the schools who need it. There are direct strategies as well as indirect strategies. Examples of the direct include things such as locks on doors, metal detectors, and random searching for weapons. Indirect strategies include requiring school uniforms, and establishing a positive school climate. It is likely that more direct strategies are more effective than the indirect, but they do not change the culture of the school. It is recommended that schools maintain a zero tolerance policy for weapons, fighting, or other acts of violence, minimized the number of unlocked entrances, exits, and halls for students and visitors, require students to carry a hall pass when roaming about the school during classes and to limit the hall passes to an absolute minimum. These few strategies can be the stepping stones to making a better school enviroment.
Work Cited Lessons Learned. American School & University, July99, Vol. 71 Issue 11 Agron, Joe Watching for Warning Signs. Newsweek, 12/20/99, Vol. 134 Issue 25, p.39 Kantroitz, Barbara; Wingert, Pat; Struzzi, Diane Cracking down on kids. U.S. News & World Report, 12/13/99, Vol. 127 Issue 23, p19 Leo, John Ground zero of zero-tolerance for violence. Christian Science Monitor, 11/18/99, Vol. 91 Issue 247, p1 McLaughlin, Abraham Preventing School Violence. FDCH ABC Nightline, 04/21/1999 Sawyer, Diane; Gibson, Charles Dangerous Schools? Christian Science Monitor, 11/05/99, Vol. 91 Issue 239, p11 Schorr, Daniel Making Schools Safer and Violence Free. Intervention in School & Clinic, March97, Vol. 32 Issue 4, p.199. Walker, Hill M.; Gresham, Frank M.