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Published in Print: June 2, 1999, as More Teachers and Students Say Violence in Schools Is Declining

More Teachers and Students Say Violence in Schools Is Declining

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More teachers and students say school violence has decreased compared with 1993, even while they report their personal experiences with such violence have either increased or remained the same, a national survey released last week shows.

"Schools are still a safe place for kids to be," Gerald N. Tirozzi, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said at a briefing held here to release results of the annual teacher poll sponsored by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Roughly one in five teachers--21 percent--polled last fall reported that the level of school violence had declined in the past year, compared with 11 percent in 1993; 29 percent of students reported such a decline, compared with 13 percent in 1993; and 26 percent of law-enforcement officials said violence had decreased, compared with 8 percent in 1993.

But teachers' and students' personal experiences with school violence present a different picture. Twenty-four percent of students reported that they had been victims of violence at school. Incidents included threats involving a gun or knife, pushes, shoves, kicks, bites, stealing, and the actual use of a gun or knife; 16 percent of teachers said they were victims of similar violent incidents.

Twelve percent of teachers, 11 percent of students, and 18 percent of law-enforcement officials said crime had increased in the past year.

The "Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher: Violence in America's Public Schools--Five Years Later" was conducted by Louis Harris and Associates. It is based on questions asked of public school teachers, students, and law-enforcement officials. The last time the survey focused on school violence was in 1993.

The 1998 survey came after a series of widely reported school shootings during 1997-98.

'A Community Problem'

The researchers who conducted the survey said the respondents' perception of violence in schools reflected the overall decrease in violent crime nationwide.

Today's students are more likely to feel safe when they are in school, compared with students in 1993, the study found. And today, as in 1993, urban students and teachers are more likely than their suburban and rural peers to say they feel safe in school.

But when it comes to reporting that they have been victims of crime, students and teachers in urban, suburban, and rural areas are on an equal footing.

"There is a tendency to equate school violence with inner-city schools," Frank Newman, the president of the Education Commission of the States, said at last week's briefing.

"Five years ago, school-violence conversation would have centered around urban schools," Mr. Tirozzi said. "But urban schools are doing things [to combat school violence] that we really need to look at."

The MetLife survey, conducted last October and November, included a total of 1,044 classroom interviews of students in grades 3-12, 1,000 telephone interviews with current public school teachers, and 100 phone interviews with law-enforcement officials.

The sampling error ranges from plus or minus 3 percentage points to plus or minus 10.

Vol. 18, Issue 38, Page 8

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