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Violence refers to expression of anger or frustration through use of excessive force that is meant to inflict pain or bodily harm on the victim. It also means an imposition of one's will on another, against the other person's will, consent or agreement. Sometimes violence can be looked at from a verbal perspective, where on uses harsh words and expressions to cause emotional pain on another. Worldwide, violence is seen as a tool of manipulation for making on have their way against the wishes of their subjects, and on a broader spectrum, may vary from just a physical altercation between individuals to war and genocide which leaves many people dead (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007).
Violence in schools is a common phenomenon the world over. Both the public and private schools are platforms for violence, but the response in these two settings greatly varies. The public schools form the center of discussion for the researcher in this paper. Every year as schools resume session from the holidays, it is always the hope of teachers and parents that the cases of violence will reduce. Statistics show that in a country like Columbia alone, 270 deaths occurred in the academic year 1992-3 as a result of violence. This was according to national School Safety Center's report. Most of these deaths occurred through shooting. In another research within the same country in 2000, 96% of the respondents (students) in a given school said that they felt unsafe in school, as 22% of them said that they knew students who carried dangerous weapons to school everyday. In another finding around the same time, it was found that 10%of all public schools had reported a serious violence related crime like murder, rape, suicide, robbery or physical attack with a weapon. A larger percentage of these crimes occurred in public city schools and large schools with a population of 1000 or more students. This is clear enough to show that violence is rampant in schools (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007).
Types of violence in public schools
Studies of violence show that the cause of violence in schools varies from one country to another and so does the likelihood of individuals becoming a victim of violence. However, Jamaica is one of the most violent countries in the world and this is why the researcher based their study on this country to establish a number of varied aspects related to the study (Jack, 2001). Violence in public schools exhibits itself in a number of ways that includes bullying, assault and gang violence. Bullying refers to a scenario where a person or group tries to impose their power over another person or group but by use of force, violence and assault that may include roughing up. It is an act of aggressive and repeated behavior aimed at intentionally hurting another person. The victim of bullying is often referred to as the target while the force enforcer is called the bully. Bullying consists of abuse in three areas-physical, emotional and verbal (Melissa, 2010).
Assault refers to a scenario where a person is made to feel fearful or intimidated. The assaulter batters the victim, with the aim of making them comply to something that the assaulter wants. Sometimes assault may not be physical, but may be as a result of threat of violence as a result of expression of force by the assaulter (Sidney, 1996).
A gang is a group of people who share a common identity either by the values they share or by the things they do together. They form a gang when they organize, from or establish themselves into an assemblage that is well known among themselves, and mostly, the word carries a very negative connotation. Gang violence hence refers to acts of abuse, assault or rebellion carried out by people in such groupings. In the United States, there are about 30,000 gangs, with approximately 800,000 members and their presence is mostly felt in the urban areas. Among these 28% of the gangs are formed by students in public schools (Melissa, 2010).
Causes of violence in public schools
Violence is a multifaceted issue and it is therefore very difficult to pin point on the cause of violence. However, there are possible risk factors that heighten the probability that a child could turn violent on their colleagues. Among these risk factors is the individual child. Some children have marked internalized while others have externalized behaviors. Internalized behaviors reflect withdrawal, anxiety and depression, while externalized behaviors are exhibited through aggression and hyperactivity, which are directly linked to violence. A child with characteristic of internalizing behaviors like depression could result to violence as a coping mechanism. Other risk factors are the home environment which is thought to contribute the highest to school violence. A child exposed to gun violence or domestic violence will more likely that not transfer the same feeling to others by bulling or assaulting them. Corporal punishment by parents to children also tends to increase the tendency for the child to result to violence, simply as a reflection of what the child goes through when they are punished in such a manner (Larsen, 2003).
Neighborhood environment is also another pre-disposing factor that may cause a child to turn violent. For example, a neighborhood with high crime rates and drug abuse tendencies will psychologically affect the children in the area, making them vulnerable and susceptible to turning violent at school. The school environment cannot also go scot-free when it comes to triggers of violence among students. Within the school environment, teacher assaults are linked to a higher proportion of males to women, a higher percentage of students who benefit from free utilities like lunches or waivers on tuition fees, a high ratio of students compared to teachers, higher grade levels and a history of heightened levels of disciplinary issues. Urban location of schools also plays a major role in increasing chances of violence in the public schools. In addition, students who lack an attachment to school are prone to engage in high levels of school-related violence as a way of rebellion (Jack 2001).
Access to weapons and cyber abuse are also potential causes for violence and abuse in schools. Reports show that during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of teens involved in gun violence increased from a mere 12% to 34%. In two consecutive academic years, about 80 students died from gun violence in public schools in the US. However, the incidences have gone down over the years and statistics on school-based violence show that the issue is slowly but surely reducing. Cyber use and abuse has significantly contributed to the rising levels of crime in the public schools in US. This is because services like blogging, email and other internet related services have significantly eroded school safety; not forgetting that through the internet students can now get access to violent video games that contribute significantly to actual violence in school (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007).
What then can be done so as to deal with violence within schools?
School-based violence is existent, and the best thing to go about it is not for society to cover its head in the sand but to come out strongly and implement strategies aimed at wiping out such violence. At society level, strategies can be adopted which will aim at changing social and cultural aspects that seem to heighten violence among students, especially those in public schools. Social norms need to be redefined and reshaped in a way that they will address social vices like gang violence and all other forms of deviant behaviors that seem to promote violence. At the school level, educational systems need to be redefined in order to wipe out those characteristics that are associated with violence or which are potential propellers of violence within the schools. One of the strategies is to embrace an approach aimed towards cooperative learning, classroom management techniques and close student supervision.
At the family level, there is need to introduce programs aimed at improving family relationships that greatly influence how a child behaves when in the outside world.
Teachers have a greater role to play in dealing with violence at school ad some of the steps that they can take include wiping out prejudice and stereotyping, paying close attention to idle talk, taking responsibility for their classrooms, inside and out, educating themselves on danger signs (sudden loss of interest in class, an obsession for violent games, violence towards animals, lack of anger management tactics, depression and mood swings and isolation and despair), getting involved with student-led anti-violence groups and teaching about conflict resolution and anger management skills (Melissa, 2010).