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Some Students Report Feeling Safer at School

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Though national reports show that crime and violence among youths continue to increase, some students say schools are less violent than they were two years ago.

In a new survey due out next month, 22 percent of students reported that violence in their schools had decreased in the past year; just 14 percent had reported such a decrease in an earlier poll done in 1994. In the new survey, 21 percent reported an increase in violence, compared with 24 percent in 1994.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. poll, the third in recent years on violence in the public schools, was conducted from Dec. 19 to Feb. 2 by Louis Harris & Associates Inc. Researchers distributed questionnaires to 2,524 students in grades 7-12 in 48 states.

The two earlier surveys included a 1994 poll of more than 1,000 parents and about 2,500 students. The results were published in "Violence in the American Public Schools: The Family Perspective." (See Education Week, Dec. 7, 1994.)

In December 1993, Metropolitan Life released a survey of public school teachers, students, and police department officials. That report found that students generally felt less safe than teachers. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1994.)

The new report is the first of four planned surveys focused exclusively on students.

Impact on Schools

The report says that the improvement in many students' perceptions about violence may show that certain education initiatives may be working to remedy discipline problems and violent outbreaks at school.

Another finding that school officials may find encouraging is the connection students made in the survey between teachers' attitudes toward their classes and an improved school environment.

Students who say their teachers treat them with respect are twice as likely as other students to report fewer fights, turf battles, and better relations among students.

"Kids can get positive social skills from a positive school environment," said Katherine Binns, a senior vice president at Louis Harris.

The message, Ms. Binns said, is that teachers who may feel discouraged by the many factors that contribute to social problems at school should understand that teachers can make a difference.

For More Information:

Copies of the report, "Students Voice Their Opinions on: Violence, Social Tension, and Equality Among Teens," are available free by writing to the Metropolitan Life Foundation, 1 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010.

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