School Violence: Can it Be Stopped

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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It's a fact that violence in schools is prevalent in today's society. We hear of school shootings, swarmings and attacks on children for their clothing, shoes and milk money. Students have been beaten and robbed for anything they have that is of value.

Since the 1992/1993 school year there has been 270 violent deaths in schools across our nation. 207 of those deaths resulted from gunshot wounds. In the 1999/2000 school year there were only about 75 violent school deaths. Though this seems to be encouraging, in reality even one violent school death annually is too many. We need to send the message that violence in our schools will not be tolerated.

In the 1996/1997 school year, the US Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics took a survey of 1,234 elementary, middle and high schools in every state in the US. These are the results of that survey:

Over 1,000 students were victims of violent crime in city schools and large schools.

The crime that was reported most was physical fights where no weapons were involved.

The majority of serious violence occurred in middle schools and high schools.

57% of schools surveyed reported at least one incident of violence that lead to the police becoming involved.

10% of schools surveyed reported a serious violent crime, such as rape, murder, an attack with a weapon, robbery, sexual battery and suicide.

43% of schools reported they were free of violent crime.

90% of schools surveyed reported that no serious violence had occurred.

Teachers, police and students who were interviewed expressed the opinion that violence in schools was decreasing. Of students who were interviewed about their personal experience with violence, a quarter stated that they had been the victims of violence either on school property or close to the school. The most frightening statistic of all was that one in every eight students admitted that at some time they had taken a weapon to school.

Stopping School Violence

Before school violence can be stopped, we must face the fact that everyone shares the problem. No one groups is to blame, nor should one group be responsible for stopping violence in the schools of American. Everyone needs to face the reality that violence in our schools must be stopped and then work together to find a solution. Parents, people in the community and school administrators and teachers must all work as a team to keep our children safe while they're attending school. It is impossible to keep our schools safe without cooperation from the school, parents and the community.

Statistics prove that 84% if public schools in America have a low security system. There are no metal detectors or guards in the school, though access to the building is controlled. A full time guard is employed at 11% of schools, but there are no metal detectors or other safeguards in place. Schools with a full time guard usually do not control access to the building. Some schools have controlled access but only a part time guard. Of all schools surveyed only 2% gave controlled access, metal detectors and a full time security guard. When the percentages are calculated, 3% of America's schools have no security measurements in place.

How can we protect our children while they're at school? Several suggestions have been made:

Nametags

One suggestion by school administrators is that all administration is to make nametags compulsory. Every person in administration, as well as staff and students would wear nametags. This would make trespassers on school property highly visible. It would also allow school officials to easily identify students who were causing problems.

Zero Tolerance

Another suggestion was that all schools in America incorporate a zero tolerance policy toward violence. This would put a stop to minor infractions such as bullying, shoving and other incidents that often escalate into violent situations.

School Uniforms

Though many parents feel that school uniforms steal their child's individuality, they do have many benefits. Uniforms don't have to be dressy and many schools are adopting uniforms that are casual. Jeans and knit shirts with collars are often acceptable as a school uniform in today's society. These types of uniforms make kids comfortable, are affordable and durable and can be worn outside of school. Some schools provide an allowance for uniforms.

Benefits of School Uniforms

School uniforms instill a sense of belonging in students, even those who have not always been accepted.

School staff no longer has to police the choice of student's clothing.

Uniforms help school staff identify those who belong at the school.

Uniforms prevent the use of "colors" by gangs.

They stop violence during the theft of clothing. When everyone wears the same type of clothing designer clothes are no longer coveted by other students.

Uniforms instill a sense of discipline in the school.

Parents and School Violence

As a parent there are several things you can do to prevent school violence.

Set rules for your children to make them aware of their limits and the consequences they'll face if these rules are broken. Remember to follow through.

Keep communication with your children open. Be aware of who their friends are and the activities that they participate in.

Step up to the plate and intervene if an attitude or behavior could be dangerous to your child or others. Report these types of incidents to school administrators and if results aren't satisfactory, call the police.

Be aware of warning signs that indicate potential problems. Get to know your child, his attitude and his moods. Any change in his personality, even a small one can indicate problems, as can sudden mood swings.

Become involved at your child's school. Join PTA or become a volunteer. Get to know your child's teacher and keep the lines of communication open.

Help your school adopt a zero tolerance policy for violence. This can decrease violence by one-third.

Form a community group to prevent violence. Involve everyone you can.

Help your child's school form and develop a program to reduce school violence and a violence response plan.

Keep our children safe. Become involved in a violence prevention group and encourage those in your community to do the same. School violence must stop now before another child dies.

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