Although school shootings have attracted
public attention to violence associated with schools, the fact remains that
the vast majority of America's schools are safe places. Of all homicides
and suicides among children 5-19 years of age, less than 1 percent occur
in or around school grounds or on the way to or from school (Indicators of School
Crime and Safety, 2000). Still, any amount of school violence is intolerable
(Federal Activities Addressing
Violence in Schools, 2000).
School-based violence prevention efforts
can take many forms. They may work to protect students from danger or victimization
and may also seek to prevent students from developing or relying on aggressive
behavior as a way to solve conflicts (Peaceful Schools,
1998). Such efforts include adopting zero tolerance policies, requiring students
to wear uniforms, employing surveillance cameras and metal detectors, and
stationing law enforcement and mental health personnel in the schools (Indicators of School
Crime and Safety, 2000).
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education
identified the fundamental qualities of a safe and responsible school:
The school has strong leadership, caring
faculty, family and community involvement that includes law enforcement officials
and representatives of community-based organizations, and student participation
in the design of programs and policies.
The physical environment of the
school is safe and schoolwide policies are in place to promote and support
Prevention and intervention programs
are sustained, coordinated, and comprehensive.
Interventions are based on careful
assessment of student needs.
Evidence-based approaches are used.
Staff are provided with training
and support to help them implement programs and approaches.
Schools that incorporate these characteristics
will achieve improved academics, reduced disciplinary referrals and suspensions,
greater staff morale, and enhanced safety (Safeguarding
Our Children: An Action Guide, 2000).
The latest information and statistics
pulled from a wide variety of school safety publications.
"Less than 1 percent of the more
than 2,500 children nationwide who were murdered or committed suicide in
the first half of the 1997-98 school year were at school" (Indicators of School
Crime and Safety, 2002).
"Between 1995 and 1999, there was
a decrease in the percentage of students feeling unsafe while they were at
school or on the way to and from school. However, between 1999 and 2001,
there was no significant change in the percentage of students feeling unsafe
at school or on the way to or from school. (Indicators of School
Crime and Safety, 2002).
"Most school crime is theft, not
serious violent crime. In 1999, there were 60 thefts for every 1,000 students
(ages 12-18) at school. Thefts accounted for about 64 percent of all crime
against students at school that year" (Indicators of School
Crime and Safety, 2001).
"The percentage of students ages
12 through 18 who reported avoiding one or more places at school for their
own safety decreased from 9 percent in 1995 to 5 percent in 1999 and 2001"
School Crime and Safety, 2002).