Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Perceptions of School Violence by Elementary and Middle School Personnel

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Perceptions of School Violence by Elementary and Middle School Personnel

Article excerpt

The incidence of juvenile violence is becoming more and more commonplace across the United States. The number of youths arrested on homicide charges between 1988 and 1992 increased by101% in Ohio alone (Baker,1995). While the increasing tide of juvenile violence in the streets is alarming, it is particularly problematic because of insidious encroachment into the public school (Glasser,1992; Sautter,1995). According to a National School Board Association survey of 700 schools, school violence is worse now than it was 5 years ago (Baker,1995). Research has indicated in the 4 years following September 1986, 71 persons had been killed by guns in schools, 201 were severely wounded, and 242 were held hostage at gun-point. It is estimated that more than 100,000 youths are taking guns to school each day (Center to Prevent Handgun Violence [Center],1990; Stephans,1994). A 1991 study indicated that one of every 18 students attending high school carried a gun (Schaff 1995).

These acts occurred in 35 states and the District of Columbia (Center, 1990). Research indicates that violent crimes among youth are increasing while other age groups have stabilized (Governor's Task Force, 1993; Portner,1995; Sautter,1995). Fox and Pierce (1994) reported that over 90% of the time, males between the ages of 14 and 17 have been both the offender and victim in violent crime.

Research on school violence indicates that school hallways and classrooms are risk areas for violence while the trigger event for the violence varies from gang activity to romantic disputes or theft (Center, 1990). Many education professionals feel that school violence is not caused by the school but reflects behaviors displayed outside school (Stephans, 1994). Societal changes, the breakdown of family relationships, violent role models in the media, and mediamodeled violent behavior have been cited as contributing to school violence (Bender & Bruno, 1990; Met Life, 1994; Stephans, 1994).

Resource constraints placed on U.S. schools make it difficult for the schools to adequately address this issue, leaving many to deal with violence in a piecemeal fashion. While many programs to target the causes of school violence are being piloted in middle schools, junior high schools, and senior high schools, there are few programs targeting the elementary school level Johnson & Johnson, 1995a; Stephans, 1994). Programs ranging form police partnerships to the removal of lockers are being tried, but the results have been inconsistent (Johnson & Johnson, 1995a, 1995b).

Further, the perceptions of elementary and middle school personnel regarding school violence have not been investigated. As these are the professionals who deal directly with these issues, their perceptions are vital to developing a successful program.

The primary purpose of the study presented here was to describe elementary and middle school professionals' experiences with violence. A secondary purpose was to try to identify effective and ineffective programs dealing with school violence at the elementary and middle school level. METHOD

Participants

The sample was part of a larger sample of school professionals selected in order to investigate violence at all school levels. Teachers, building administrators, and district administrators in 15 school districts of varying sizes, from 12 states, representing all geographical regions of the country, participated. A random sample of 134 teachers, 38 building administrators, 2 district administrators, with 6 indicating other but not specifying their exact function, responded to the survey. Of the 180 respondents, 90 were employed at the preschool/elementary level, and 90 were employed at the middle school/junior high level. Some 54 respondents held a 4-year degree,114 held a master's degree, 10 held doctoral degrees, and 2 did not indicate their educational level. Fiftyeight men and 121 women responded, and one did not indicate gender. …

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