School violence is acknowledged as a main social issue which not only influences the students’ educational achievement and well-being, but can as well establish citizenship education and democratic value. School violence is referred to as youth violence which takes place in school property, in a school sponsored events, or on the way from or to school or from or to school sponsored event. Students can in this case be witnesses, perpetrators, or victims of school violence. School violence might as well impact or involve adults. School violence according to Smith (2004) comprises of violent behaviors that include shoving, pushing and bullying. The three behaviors may cause less physical harm as compared to emotional harm. Other kinds of school violence that include gang assault and violence with or without the aid of weapons can result to serious injury and in worst case it can result to death or disability (CDC, 2015). This paper analysis school violence as a social problem that need to be address.
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About School Violence
School violence is regarded as a subset of youth violence which is a more extensive social problem. Youth violence is referred to as harmful behaviors which might begin early and continue to grow as one grow into a young adult. It comprise of number of behaviors that include use of weapons, punching, slapping and bullying. Others include face-to-face verbal harassment, rumor mongering, public humiliation (Juvonen, 2001). This can result to physical or psychological injuries and in severe cases this can result to death either during or after violence as a result of an injury or due to psychological torture that result into suicide. However school related violent deaths are not common based on statistics. The United States in 2010-2011 school year, recorded 11 cases of homicide among the school going children aged between 5 and 18.
Among all homicide cases recorded among youths, less than 1% took place in school, a value that has been consistently recorded in the last 10 years. Moreover, there were approximately 749200 school nonfatal violent acts in 2012 among students aged between 12 and 18. About 5 percent of teachers in US reported to have been physically attacked by school children while about 9 percent of teachers reported having been threatened by students with injury. About 18 percent of students aged between 12 and 18 in 2011 reported of having a gang in their school during the year (CDC, 2015).
In the 2013, 8.1 percent of youths in the United States reported to have been involved in physical fights in school a year before the survey. About 7.1 percent did not report to school for a day or more 30 days before the CDC survey due to the fear of being attacked by others either on their way to or from the school or within the school compound. In addition, about 5.2% of students in the US stated that they carried a weapon that included club, knife or gun on one or more occasion to school within the 30 days before the survey. About 14.8 percent reported to have been bullied by follow student through communication devices while 19.6 percent claimed to have been bullied within the school compound. Thus cases of school violence are quite popular in both lower and higher grade not just in American but all over the world.
School violence is related to a number of consequences, death being the most fatal outcome of the behavior. It subjects a number of young persons into nonfatal injuries. Some of the experienced injuries for instance broken bones, bruises, and cuts are moderately minor. However, others for instance head trauma and gunshot wounds are more severe and they may result to death or permanent disability. Apart from the visible injuries there are a number of invisible injuries associated with school violence. According to Furlong et al. (2015), exposure to school violence can yield to an extensive array of negative outcomes and behaviors which include suicide, drug use, and alcohol. Other psychological problems associated with school violence include anxiety, depression and fear. This psychological and physical pain may eventually the general performance of a student in school. They may also contribute to increase in the rate of school dropouts, and school absenteeism.
School Violence Risk Factors
According to BJA (2007), there are various factors that can contribute in increasing the school violence risk among students. Nevertheless, the presence of these aspects does not guarantee that a young individual will turn to be an offender. These factors include community poverty poor school grades, poor functioning of family, relation with aberrant peers, tobacco, alcohol, or drug use, and past violence history. School violence especially bullying among lower grades is attributed to the body size while the big kids tend to harass small bodied kids based on their masculinity power. Other contributing factors according to BJA (2007) include prejudices founded on gender, disability, sexual orientation, social class, physical appearance, ethnicity, religion and race among other traits.
School violence is also contributed by children exposure to violence in the community and the family, child neglect and abuse, lack of interest in activities of children and poor parenting, and peer pressure to engage in negative behaviors such as truancy, drug use, and violence. Unsupervised access to guns as well as access to information regarding how to create explosive devices has also contributed to violence as most of them tend to experiment their ability out of curiosity with other students. This has also been attributed by excessive exposure of children to violence in video games, movies, and television programs.
Moreover, lack of skills in conflict resolution has also contributed to the growth of violence among youths in school due to arrangement of revengeful counter attacks. Failure to treat and detect children showing warning signs of mental instability which is demonstrated by verbal or written behavior that demonstrates that the child has desire to be disreputable, revenge obsession, revenge fantasy, perceived injustice, preoccupation with past school shooter or shooting, homicidal or suicidal ideation, insignificance dehumanization feelings or violence desensitization. Others include negative self-image, lack of children positive contact with, and supervision of adults after school, and lack of eminence role model and accessibility to unsuitable role models. This is a clear indication that school violence is cultivated by families unknowingly and we only realize the consequences of our negligence as a society after a child has been tagged as a victim or perpetrator (BJA, 2007).
The issue of school violence started to be a matter of concern in the US at around 1990s. In 1996 it was recorded that 1 in every 100 students aged between 12 and 18 was a victim of severe violence crimes which took place in the school compound such as washroom, playground, along the corridors, or on their way from and to the school. In 1996-1997 academic year, the US schools recorded 4000 sexual related crimes that included rapes, 11000 fights or physical attacks that involved weapons, and 7000 cases of robberies. However there has been a great improvement regarding the issue based on the current statistics. Current research demonstrates a reduction in school violence and a decline in the volume of guns taken to school.
Although there has been a recent high-profile wave of violence incidences committed in US schools, statistics demonstrate that violence crimes specifically homicide is moderately rare in schools. This decrease can be attributed by the effort of the American government to free schools from violence related risk factors. Among of the government efforts include freeing schools from drugs, alcohol, unauthorized firearms presence, violence and provision of a disciplined setting which is conducive for learning. This was achieved by the development of policies contributed by community leaders, criminal justice officials, parents, and school administration to ensure that students are offered secure an safe learning environment. The legislative part of the government has also been involved in enacting a number of laws focusing on resolving the complex schools crime issues. These legislation have defined schools as gun-free safety zones, improved penalties for school grounds committed offenses, established anonymous hotlines for crime reporting, and definition of antiviolence curricula for school employees and students as some of measures employed to minimize cases of school related crimes (OVC, 2002).
One of the laws that govern school safety is the schoolyard statute under the comprehensive criminal control act. This statute makes it a crime to traffic drugs around a school with 1000 feet square. The Gun-Free School Act of 1994 also allows local agencies of education to expel a student from school for not less than one year if the student is found in passion of weapons though exceptions are permitted based on the nature of the case. However, this has been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Supreme Court has in other legal cases defined the right direction to follow in managing the safety and security situation in schools. Some of these directions include the legalization of drug use related analysis in schools, limiting the student’s speech to ensure punishment is employed to students with what would be considered as disruptive or offensive speech, though this should not interfere with student rights of expression.
School officers are also allowed to conduct unwarranted search as long as the search is reasonable, and thus it should not be very intrusive based on the sex and age of the involved student. There has been the enactment of the recent law that identifies cyber bullying and other electronic related device use in harassment as a crime recognized by the law (Ncrel, n.d.). In addition, different states have taken an initiative of defining school violence act which serves within their state based on the severity of the condition. Among the states that have taken this initiative include California state, and Carolina state with anti-bulling and school violence prevention act among others. Other states have considered employment of schools programs to fight school violence where prevention and intervention programs have been enacted.
Other Strategies of School Violence Prevention
Apart from the enactment of laws that government school violence fighting, schools are encouraged to employ school violence prevention and intervention programs. To be effectual in the effort of preventing school violence, BJA (2007) advices that, programs for violence prevention need collaborative efforts of the entire community which include the business community, parents, members of the school board, security professionals, emergency response professionals, law enforcement, mental and social health professionals, administrative staff, teachers, families and students among others. In this case, school administrators should involve all the above individuals to create strategies suitable for their specific community environment and schools. While school administrators and boards develop a safety climate in schools, tutors must be directly supported and engaged in all developing stages and in programs implementation to attain safer learning environment. According to Furlong et al. (2015), teachers define the initial school safety line since they contain the most direct connection with students. They frequently have a higher insight into the possible issues and they have practical solutions appropriate to their schools.
The school administrations have also been involved in designing programs to enhance the school violence fight. They include physical surveillance that includes employment of security officers and guards in schools and weapons deterrence. School violence is a part of youth violence which goes to an extent of involving dangerous weapons. One basic goal of enhancing physical surveillance solution is the forbid students from bringing different types of weapons or all kinds of weapons to schools. Most schools have employed search mechanism where metallic detectors are used to search students’ bags and lockers particularly in big urban high and middle schools. This creates fear of being caught and thus reducing instances of weapons in the school compound. However, this technique of fighting school violence has been said to cause anxiety and fear among students and thus subjecting them to psychological problems. Moreover, they assist in preventing the act but it does not resolve the actual reason as to why the weapon was carried. In this regard, schools are becoming less and less dependent on this technique of solving violence in schools (Juvonen, 2001).
They also define school policies with intention of preventing violence, which is achieved by punishing individuals involved in violence perpetration. Apart from normal schools policies associated to student dress code and conduct, the schools are currently employing regulations and rules which directly focus on violence. This include zero-tolerance policies in which violence perpetrators are either punished based on the magnitude of the violence, planning and frequency, with the main punishments being expulsion or suspension. However, most of these policies focus on drug possession or use, as well as weapon possession, meaning that they do not cover the entire violence related risks factors. However, there are some states that have recognized bullying as a violence crime and they have integrated zero-tolerance to bullying as one of their policies.
They also develop instruction-founded programs structured to address the violence precursors that include bullying. In this case, a program is regarded as instructional if it contains multiple lessons which are implemented by adult staff or teachers. The programs normally focus on violence behaviors antecedents or precursors. This is done with assumption that by targeting violence related behaviors such as impulsive behavior and bullying, more serious aggression manifestation will be prevented. Apart from this, there are other programs that include character lessons and education in social skills which are aimed at making people more social competent. Programs may be designed based on the targeted audience who include victims, individuals at high risk of being victims, bully/victims program or an all-inclusive program (Juvonen, 2001).
This also include profiling individuals that potentially violent. Profiling technique is founded on the assumption that people can easily predict who will or can turn to be violent. Although a large number of students fit in this group, only a few of them end up committing violent based crimes. Therefore this technique is not very effecting and worse, it can result to stigmatization since all identified potentially violent student are labeled despite of never committing any crime. Other violence prevention measures include counseling students who are at risk of experiencing violence, as well as conflicting resolution and mediation. This is a reactive rather than a reactive measure.
School violence is an international problem that can be classified as part of youth violence. It involves nonfatal violence such as rumor mongering to more fatal violence that includes shooting. This results to minor physical injuries, severe physical injuries, psychological torture or even death. Moreover, it affects students’ learning and performance and thus it should be prevented. Although the statistics shows a drop in the cases of school violence in the US, there are still a number of cases still reported and others hitting the national headline. A lot has been done to handle the situation. The US government has tried to define laws to prevent school violence. Their success can be demonstrated by the decrease in the reported cases. In addition, the schools have employed a number of measures to enhance the prevention of school violence behavior. Thus, with effective implementation, the US school may manage to reduce this problem to negligible level.