American schools are relatively safe, but any type of school violence or bullying and threatening behavior is unacceptable. There are strategies to prevent school violence. Children, parents and teachers expect schools to be a safe environment for learning. Any acts of violence and bullying in school can negatively impact students, school, the learning process, and the community. Therefore, prevention of school violence and bullying must be a priority.
Children are likely to encounter news stories about shootings or other types of violence in schools. Such reports can make children view school and, indeed, the world as a threatening and frightening place. Consequently it’s natural for children to worry that they could become the victims of school violence. There are strategies for schools and parents to help children deal with such fears and to be proactive in protecting themselves.
Youth and School Violence
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC: Youth Violence: School Violence, 10/4/10), youth violence is a type of violent behavior starting at an early age and continuing into adulthood. Youth violence can include such behaviors as bullying, hitting, use of weapons or even rape.
School violence is a more specific type of youth violence. School violence involves the same types of harmful behaviors and victimization as youth violence, but it occurs in the school, a place that should be a safe haven for children.
School Violence Statistics
According to the an article on the IES National Center for Education Statistics website ( accessed 10/4/10), the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report for 2009 shows that there were 43 violent deaths associated with elementary and secondary schools in the United States from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.
During the 2007 and 2008 school year, 85% of American schools reported at least one or more incidents of violence had taken place in schools. These incidents total about two million crimes in schools. In 2007, 5% of students age 12–18 reported being fearful of attack, victimization or bodily harm at school. Only 3% reported being fearful of violence away from school.
Causes and Risks of School Violence
Decades ago no one could have imagined that violence in schools would have constituted such crimes as murder, rape, arson and other atrocious crimes. Poverty in the urban environment is one cause of violence in schools. The School Violence Resource Center suggests that urban environments present categories of risk factors, such as individual, family, community and school risk factors.
School risk factors are particularly alarming because of the negative impact violence has on students and their learning environment. School risk factors include early delinquent behavior, scholastic failure, lack of interest in education, and a potential for gang involvement. Though urban schools are generally viewed as having a higher risk for school violence, rural schools face risks of school violence as well.
Effects of School Violence
School violence and bullying or any kind of threatening behavior, have devastating, long-term psychological and physical effects on students, teachers and the learning environment. The threat of violence in the school setting has a negative impact on students’ ability to learn. Their inability to learn negatively impacts their future. As a consequence, adolescent violence, particularly in the school setting, is a serious health and safety issue.
How to Prevent School Violence and Bullying
Violence education needs to be addressed within the school system by teachers, school health officials and administration. The Violence Prevention Project of the Health Promotion Program for Urban Youth (accessed 10/4/10) is a good educational model for schools to follow. It involves educating students about the risks of violence and providing alternative conflict resolution strategies and a nonviolent classroom environment that emphasizes violence prevention behavior.
Teaching strategies include decision-making exercises on the consequences of violence and alternatives to fighting. Role-playing activities are used reinforcing nonviolent interactions. This violence prevention education program includes training programs for community agencies to help them identify and make referrals for high-risk individuals and to utilize conflict resolution strategies.
Parents must make their children feel safe by discussing with them what they, as parents, have done, and what the school is attempting to do to keep them safe. Parents can advocate for safer schools by securing reassurances from the schools that weapons are kept out of schools by doing random locker and bag checks, limiting school entrances and exits, and supervising entries and exits. Advocating for the installation of metal detectors is an option as well.
Parents, children and schools must not be silent about bullying either. Not addressing bullying only makes the situation worse. My book, The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale, offers a relatable fiction story for children about bullying , as well as strategies and resources for children, parents and schools to deal with the ever-increasing bullying dilemma. My book website, Melissa Harker Ridenour Books, gives, not only additional information about the book, but useful resources for addressing the problem. It also gives information and resources related to my stranger safety book, What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers.
Readers can purchase The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Readers can purchase What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as through Follett, Baker & Taylor and Ingrams catalogues.
Picture credit: Andrew Martin