School Climate & Safety Explainer

Violence and Safety

By Ron Skinner — September 21, 2004 | Updated: June 06, 2011 3 min read

A string of horrific school shootings in the late 1990s (“A Colo. Community Looks for Answers After Deadly Attack,” April 28, 1999) catapulted the issues of school violence and safety into the national spotlight, leaving parents, teachers, and policymakers wondering why the attacks had happened and what could be done to better protect the nation’s schoolchildren.

Those high-profile shootings—especially the most deadly incident, at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., in 1999—also led to a public perception that deadly youth violence was on the rise. An April 2000 Gallup poll found that 66 percent of all adults, and 63 percent of parents with children in school, believed it was very or somewhat likely that a Columbine-style shooting could occur in their communities (Carlson & Simmons, 2001).

However, federal statistics on acts of school violence show violence has steadily declined from a peak in the early 1990s, and the numbers continued to fall during the 2000s, according to the 2010 “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Between 1995 and 2007, the percentage of students who reported being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 percent to about 4 percent.

The number of homicides at schools also was down over the decade of the 2000s compared to the 1990s. While the years 1992 to 1999 averaged 31.1 homicides per year, the average from 2000 to 2009 was 19.4 per year. (U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, 2010)

Polls have found the level of public fear also subsiding. A series of Gallup polls that asked parents if they feared for their oldest child’s safety at school saw the number answering “yes” drop from greater than 47 percent in surveys conducted in 1999 to 25 percent in 2006.

What has increased significantly is reported cases of bullying, often cited as a cause for youth violence.

In 2007, 32 percent of students reported having been bullied in the past six months, up from 7 percent in 2001. In 2007, 21 percent of students said they had been bullied by being made fun of; 18 percent reported being the subject of rumors; 11 percent said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; 6 percent said they were threatened with harm; 5 percent said they were excluded from activities intentionally; 4 percent said someone tried to make them do something they did not want to do; and 4 percent said their property was destroyed (U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, 2010).

Recent efforts to address the problem have included the adoption of “zero tolerance” policies that require students to be expelled for up to a year if they engage in violent acts or make threats of violence against teachers or other students.

In addition, at least 44 states and the District of Columbia had some kind of bullying/harassment prevention program or legislation by the end of 2010, and 31 had anti-bullying laws that specifically mentioned “electronic harassment,” according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which tracks such legislation (“State Cyberbullying Laws Range from Guidance to Mandate,” Feb. 9, 2011). Such preventative measures being adopted by states, districts, and schools are meant to promote the “protective factors” that reduce incidents of violence while also reducing “risk factors” that are more likely to lead to violent acts (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).

A study by the Center for Adolescent Health, based at the University of Minnesota, found that factors such as race and family income were poor predictors of future violence. Instead, protective factors such as a positive family relationship or the expectation and desire to attend college reduced the chance of violence, while risk factors such as having frequent problems with schoolwork or having repeated a grade were statistically linked to increased violence (Blum, Beuhring, & Rinehart, 2000).

These risk and protective factors are a product of both the home and school environments and, accordingly, many of the programs designed to address such factors involve not only schools, but also parents and the surrounding community. The School Violence Resource Center, part of the National Center for Rural Law Enforcement, has information on nearly 50 model programs that address youth violence.

Very few of those programs are solely school-based, suggesting that the role of violence prevention is not the exclusive responsibility of schools. Local communities, consulting organizations, and policymakers are all being asked to play integral roles in violence-prevention efforts. But ultimately, schools do face the challenge of setting up support systems that ensure students have a safe haven for learning.

Sources
Blum, R.W., Beuhring, T., & Rinehart, P.M., “Protecting teens: Beyond race, income, and family structure,” University of Minnesota, Center for Adolescent Health, 2000.
Carlson, D. K., & Simmons, W. W., Gallup poll analyses, “Majority of parents think a school shooting could occur in their community,"2001.
Education Week, “A Colo. Community Looks for Answers After Deadly Attack,” April 28, 1999.
Education Week, “State Cyberbullying Laws Range from Guidance to Mandate,” Feb. 9, 2011.
Gallup, “Rise in Concern After Columbine in 1999 Has Dissipated,” 2006.
U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety,” 2010.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General,” 2001.

How to Cite This Article
Skinner, R. (2004, September 21). Violence and Safety. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/violence-and-safety/2004/09

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Recruiting and Retaining a More Diverse Teaching Workforce
We discuss the importance of workforce diversity and learn strategies to recruit and retain teachers from diverse backgrounds.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Principal
Meredith, New Hampshire
Inter-Lakes School District
Elementary Principal
Washington State
Wenatchee School District
Principal
Meredith, New Hampshire
Inter-Lakes School District
Elementary Principal
Washington State
Wenatchee School District

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion The Pandemic Is Raging. Here's How to Support Your Grieving Students
What do students who have experienced a loss need in the classroom? Brittany R. Collins digs into the science.
Brittany R. Collins
5 min read
13Collins IMG
Benjavisa Ruangvaree/iStock