Violence in Public Schools

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It is a fact that our modes of communication become faster on a daily basis. Among those communicators we find the news media as the main source of information for events both local and foreign. As shocking events of violence take place in our public schools the media takes the opportunity to express how youth have become more violent over the years. There has been much empirical work on the matter, yet a solution is to be seen. Among the most recent of incidents related to criminal behavior in school is the case of Aplington-Parkersburg High School shooting in the state of Iowa. The incident took place at 8:00 am on 6 September 2009 where 50 students were present and witnessed the shooting of their coach Ed Thomas. The perpetrator was clearly determined to commit the act since he did not mind the eye witnesses present. Cases like this are not just trends of the new upcoming generation. We have seen cases of greater magnitude as early as 1927 during the Bath School Disaster. On May 18, 1927, three bombs detonated in the Bath Township, Michigan, which killed 45 people and injured 58. Their deaths constitute the deadliest act of mass murder in the history of the U.S. School System. The responsible individual was not a youth as many may think; it was Andrew Kehoe a school board member. His motivation: a matter of property taxes being levied to fund the construction of the school building. He blamed the additional tax a financial hardship leading to the foreclosure against his farm. Is the problem age based? Or is it an economical thing? If none of those then, what is the reason? How often do these events happen? What should we do about it?


Empirical studies say that although the specific incidents of school-based fatalities are too numerous to list, there were 48 school-associated deaths in elementary and secondary schools in one year alone, from July, 2004, through June, 2005. "Indicators of School Crime and Safety," a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, reveals that public schools experiencing violent incidents increased from 71 to 81 percent over a five-year period (1999-2004). A National Crime Victimization Survey compiled and maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice, shows that crime rates in U.S. have fallen. At the same time, school-based studies reveal that many violent behaviors have increased among children and adolescents. A possible reason to the increase in violence may be due to the ease of access to firearms. During the late 80's and early 90's, teen gun violence increased drastically in the U.S. More teenagers began to acquire and carry guns, leading to the sharp increase in gun deaths and injuries. In two recent academic years, a total of 85 young people died violently in U.S. schools. Of all incidents 75% involved firearms. According to a report issued by the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, approximately 35% of U.S. homes with children under age 18 have at least one firearm, meaning that almost 11 million children live in homes with firearms. Youths can also acquire handguns in illegal sales. A 2007 study by University of California at Davis' Violence Prevention Research Program concluded that "American gun shows continue to be a venue for illegal activity, including unlicensed sales to prohibited individuals." To the untrained eye, gang activity would be the reason of the vast majority of violence in school. In reality less than two percent of juvenile crime is gang related according to studies in 2005. The study also revealed that few young people join gangs even in areas of high gang activity. The age range of youth gang members is about 12 to 24; membership is expanding at the twelve and twenty-four age range, but mainly at the twenty-four. In order to deter youth violence in school a collaborative effort must take place; involving the community, school, and law enforcement agencies. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention describes three important factors in youth violence prevention: understanding factors that place youth at risk, developing effective programs to overcome risk factors, and enhancing the protective factors that promote resiliency. In other words, the environment of the youth should be developed so as to eliminate the deviant factors and to promote orderly conduct


Unfortunately over 64% of public schools will experience violence in the next school year. It is up to us, the community, to collaborate with other agencies and minimize this continuing problem that consumes our schools. Our children deserve an environment where they shouldn't fear and instead promote learning. The burden doesn't fall on the government or the education system; it all starts at home. Perhaps creating a violence free environment may never be possible, but the nurture of the child's super ego may yield positive results. We are the founders of the next generation and culture. It is not our children but our grand children who will reap the benefits of our works. As we have seen, statistics show crime is at a constant fall for the past decade, yet violent acts at our educational institutions are constantly rising. Failing to take action would mean neglecting our children. An imperative though to always keep in mind is that we may delegate authority but never responsibility; responsibility for our offspring's actions, their behavior, and their future.