School violence is part of the broader social problem of youth violence. Youth violence is defined as the intentional use of physical force or power, which is likely to cause physical or psychological harm, by a person aged between 10 and 24 against another person, group, or community.
Bullying and fighting, including all kinds of physical aggression, are forms of school violence, along with the use of weapons, and gang violence. School violence may take place anywhere on school property or on the way to or from school. It may also occur at events organized by a school. Victims of school violence can suffer serious physical injury or psychological damage. Some incidents even have lethal ending.
According to the statistics presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2005 and 2006 at least one incident of school violence was reported by 38 percent of public schools. In 2007, 23 percent of pupils reported gangs at their schools. From 2003 to 2004, 10 percent of teachers in city schools said they were threatened by pupils; the rate was 6 percent by teachers in suburban schools; 5 percent in rural schools.
School violence is a serious issue worldwide. In 2009, a 17-year-old gunman killed 15 people and injured several others at his former high school in Germany. In 2006, Kimveer Gill killed an 18-year-old business student and injured 19 people in a shooting at Dawson College, Montreal, Canada, before committing suicide.
Exposure to violence can cause various health conditions among young people, including depression and anxiety. According to a survey carried out in 2007 throughout the United States, 5.5 percent of high school students skipped school for at least one of the 30 days preceding the poll due to fear of someone at school or on the way to and from school. The results of another U.S. poll showed that a total 160,000 students leave school early as they fear being bullied.
The reasons for youth violence and school violence in particular are complex and often hard to understand. A violent behavior can follow a pattern. For example, young people suffering or witnessing domestic violence are likely to turn into offenders themselves. Sometimes violence is committed by a victim as a reaction to bullying or other forms of aggression he or she had suffered.
Individual risk factors include a person's history of early aggression or victimization. The use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco is also considered a risk factor, along with the low IQ and the poor behavioral control. Deficits in social cognitive or information-processing abilities and high emotional stress may also increase the possibility for a youngster to become violent. Other individual risk factors comprise a person's history of treatment of emotional problems, antisocial beliefs and the exposure to violence and conflicts in the family.
Harsh, lax or inconsistent disciplinary practices and authoritarian attitudes are among the risk factors in the family. Family risk factors for school violence also include parental low involvement, abuse or criminal activity; low emotional attachment to parents and poor family functioning. Low parent education and income and poor monitoring on children can also raise the probability for youth violence.
Community risk factors are determined by the economic development, concentration of poor residents and the level of transiency and family disruption. The low levels of community participation and socially disorganized neighborhoods are also risks of the community environment.
Prevention of school violence is crucial and it starts with understanding the issue. Analyzing the number and frequency of violent acts and the damages and deaths they have caused can help figure out certain trends. Once risk factors for school violence have been identified, the respective authorities should develop test prevention strategies and eventually provide for their wide-spread implementation.