The Root of School Violence: Causes and Recommendations for a Plan of Action

Article excerpt

American violence has filtered into not only its college and university campuses, but that violence has now filtered into high schools, junior high schools, and even elementary schools (Bennett-Johnson, 2003). With the beginning of the 21st century, the United States had approximately 22.9 million property crime (73%), with 8.1 million (26%) crimes of violence; over 20,000 victims of family violence involving children; and nearly 1/4 (23%) of public school students saying they had been a victim of an act of violence at school.

Crime and violence among juveniles are becoming more frequent occurrences daily (United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001, 1997; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996). Violent crimes in America are on the decrease, although crime in general does not appear to be. American crime and violence have overflowed onto the college/university campus, and are now affecting senior high, junior high and elementary schools. As antisocial behaviors continue within the campus setting, they may effect learning which needs to take place in a "conducive environment" (Bennett-Johnson, 1997a).

This research will present suggested causes of school crime and also suggest possible solutions. As violence within our nation increases it will continue to filter into the (young) adult and juvenile population(s), with an inevitable increase within the lower grades among children. There must be an understanding of how America's crimes and violent past, have created a pattern of deviance, the college/university campus and schools will not he able to escape.

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In the prior centuries, no one would imagine that crime and violence at the public school level would mean rape, robbery, murder, arson, and many other heinous crimes; much like the crimes within the larger society (Bennett-Johnson, 1997a; Bennett-Johnson, 1997b). With the beginning of the 21st century, the United States had nearly 1/4 (23%) of public school students saying they had been the victims of an act of violence at school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). According to researchers, urban environments tend to have higher poverty rates (Jargowsky 1994; Jargowsky & Bane 1990; Kasarda 1992, 1993; Mincy, Sawhill & Wolf 1990; Ricketts & Sawhill 1988), with the level of poverty being great. This "concentrated poverty" lent itself to more crime, a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse, concentrated poverty and various types of "deviance" such as drug use, higher incidences of teenage pregnancy and more violent crime.

The condition of poverty within the urban environment allows for joblessness and irregular employment, with most people within the area who lie "idle" for large periods of time, if not almost indefinitely. That condition, unfortunately lends itself to those children and offspring who pattern themselves after those "role models". That "modeling" continues to behaviors such as using weapons, being easily provoked, being unable to solve simple problems without becoming upset, etc. These continue by creating other types of situations such as other types of criminal activity. In most urban environments, crime is a "way of life." When assessing the family incomes of children, most who were victims came from family situations whose incomes were $7,500 or less per year (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002).

The School Violence Resource Center (2002) suggests that an urban environment has certain "risk factor domains." These domains include: individual risk factors; family risk factors; community risk factors; and, school risk factors. Individual risk factors include delinquent friends, aggressiveness of the individual, any substance abuse, lower intelligence, and birth complications. Family risk factors include any history of family crime and violence, lower or lack of expectations by parents, the lack of monitoring by parents, parental involvement in drugs, and child abuse and neglect. …