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National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Added to archive August 7, 2003

School Violence

Definitions of the term "school violence" range from very limited—for example, relating only to the use of guns in school—to very extensive, including all youth misconduct and the many community and societal influences on such behavior (Preventing School Violence: Plenary Papers of the 1999 Conference on Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation-Enhancing Policy and Practice Through Research). The Center for the Prevention of School Violence defines school violence as "any behavior that violates a school's educational mission or climate of respect or jeopardizes the intent of the school to be free of aggression against persons or property, drugs, weapons, disruptions, and disorder".

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 responsible behaviors.

  • 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.

  • Interventions are monitored and evaluations are conducted to ensure that the programs are meeting measurable goals and objectives (Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide, 2000).
  • 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.

This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved  in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.

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