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Urban Teachers See More Violence

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Violence in schools is still a problem, teachers surveyed by the American Federation of Teachers confirm, but it is far more serious--and growing worse--for those in large urban districts than for those in suburban and rural districts.

In a random survey of approximately 300 teachers who are aft members, researchers found that almost 30 percent of those teaching in large school districts last year said school violence is a "very serious" problem and 70 percent said it is a "moderate" problem. Eighty-two percent of that group also reported an increase in incidents of violence during the last two years.

Most teachers (70 percent) in large districts said fights in school are frequent and 29 percent said violence against teachers is common.

An Urban Problem

The statistics on schools in smaller communities, however, provided a sharp contrast to the statistics of urban-area schools.

Sixty-eight percent of teachers in small districts reported that violence is not a serious problem; only 1 percent of those teachers said the problem has reached "crisis" proportions, while 29 percent of teachers in large districts said it is a "crisis."

In smaller school systems, only 12 percent said the problem has increased during the past two years. In fact, 18 percent of those teachers said the situation has "improved." Only 2 percent of teachers from large districts re-ported any improvement in the problem of school violence.

When asked what behavior contributed most to violence problems, 48 percent of teachers from large districts said the difficulties arose most often because "students refuse to obey instructions"; teachers in small districts said that "students getting into fights" is the major contributing factor to violence on campus.

The survey results also indicated that the most violence occurs on a "student-to-student basis." But again, the results differed between large and small districts. Seventy-five percent of the violence in small districts is between students, teachers said, and 53 percent of violent acts in large districts are against teachers.

Teachers in large and small districts also attribute the causes of violence to different factors. Teachers in small districts said the problems stem from drug abuse and a lack of parental control and support. Teachers in larger systems blamed institutional problems, such as inconsistent discipline and overcrowded schools.

The survey produced similar results for large and small districts in only three areas:

All teachers listed student fights, vandalism, and theft as the most prevalent kinds of violence.

All large school districts and almost 90 percent of small school districts have some type of conduct code for students.

A majority of all teachers surveyed said the community at large has not addressed the problem of school violence.--cc

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