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Social Sci LibreTexts

13.7D: Violence in Schools

  • Page ID
    8383
  • School violence is a serious problem in the United States, and attempts to explain it identify both individual and social risk factors.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Recall the risk factors for school violence in the U:S. and the two types of bullying

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Individual risk factors for school violence include a tendency to externalize problems, or act out, as well as developmental delays, low IQ, and reading problems.
    • Social risk factors for school violence include an unstable home environment, violent neighborhoods, and certain characteristics of a school environment.
    • A neighborhood environment may contribute to school violence when a community ‘s high rates of crime or drug use spills over into the classroom.
    • Bullying may be committed by one student or a group of students.
    • Physical bullying is the most easily identified and includes unwanted physical contact such as pushing, kicking, and tickling. It may also include the use of weapons.
    • Verbal bullying is any slanderous statements or accusations that cause the victim undue emotional distress, such as insulting someone’s appearance, laughing at someone, or directing foul language toward someone.
    • Emotionally bullying is any form of bullying that damages a victim’s emotional well-being, such as spreading malicious rumors, giving someone the silent treatment, or harassment.

    Key Terms

    • School Violence: School violence is widely considered to have become a serious problem in recent decades in many countries, particularly violence involving weapons. This includes violence between school students as well as physical attacks by students on school staff.
    • bullying: an act of physically or emotionally intimidating a weaker person to do something, especially through repeated coercion

    School violence is a serious problem in the United States. This refers to violence between students as well as physical attacks by students on school staff. In 2007, a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that, during the 30 days before they took the survey, 5.9% of students had carried a weapon to school, and 5.5% of students had skipped school because they did not feel safe. In the 12 months before they took the survey, 12.4% of students had been in a physical fight on school property at least once. Between 1996 and 2003, at least 46 individuals were killed in 27 school incidents involving the use of firearms.

    While these numbers are alarming, data also shows that most crimes at school are not violent. In 2001, students between the ages of 12 and 18 were the victims of two million crimes at school, but 62% of those crimes were thefts. In part, violence receives more attention because it draws media coverage. For example, school shootings account for less than 1% of violent crimes in public schools, yet nearly every school shooting makes national headlines. Nevertheless, because school violence can have such serious consequences, educators and policymakers take the issue very seriously.

    Explanations of School Violence

    Attempts to explain school violence have identified several individual and social risk factors. Individual risk factors include a tendency to externalize problems, or “act out,” as well as developmental delays, low IQ, and reading problems. Social risk factors include an unstable home environment, violent neighborhoods, and certain characteristics of a school environment. A home environment may contribute to school violence if, at home, students are exposed to gun violence, parental alcoholism, domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or harsh parental discipline. All of these may teach children that criminal and violent activities are acceptable and may increase a child’s tendency to respond to frustration with aggression. A neighborhood environment may contribute to school violence if a community has high rates of crime or drug use. A neighborhood may also expose students to deviant peers or to gangs who contribute to violence inside schools. Finally, school violence tends to be higher in certain types of schools, the characteristics of which are listed below:

    • a large male population
    • higher grade levels
    • a history of disciplinary problems
    • a high student-to-teacher ratio
    • urban location

    Prevention and intervention strategies may target individual students, families, the school community, or society in general. Individual-level strategies target at-risk or aggressive students and teach these students conflict resolution, problem solving, and social skills. Family-based solutions attempt to improve family relationships in order to improve students’ experiences while they are at home. School-wide strategies are designed to modify school characteristics associated with violence. Examples of this would be classroom practices that encourage student cooperation and close interaction with teachers, or the presence of police and law enforcement in schools to discourage violence. Finally, society-level prevention strategies attempt to change social and cultural conditions in order to reduce violence, regardless of where it occurs. For example, society-level strategies might try to reduce the violence portrayed in movies or music.

    Bullying

    In recent years, one particular type of school violence, bullying, has garnered special attention. Bullying can be committed by one student or a group of students. Typically, a group of bullies takes advantage of, or isolates, one student in particular and gains the loyalty of bystanders who, in many cases, want to avoid becoming victims themselves. Bullies typically taunt and tease their target before physically bullying their target. The targets of bullying are often students who are considered strange or different by their peers to begin with, making the situation harder for them to deal with. Often, victims are targeted based on their appearance, their gender, or their sexual orientation.

    Bullying is a common occurrence in most schools. According to the American Psychological Association, “approximately 40% to 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point during their school careers. ” Bullying can be physical, verbal, and emotional. Physical bullying is the most easily identified and includes unwanted physical contact such as pushing, kicking, tickling, or the like, and may also include the use of weapons. Verbal bullying is any slanderous statements or accusations that cause the victim undue emotional distress. This can include insulting someone’s appearance, laughing at someone, or directing foul language toward someone. Emotionally bullying is any form of bullying that damages a victim’s emotional well-being, such as spreading malicious rumors, giving someone the silent treatment, or harassment. Bullying can also take place over the internet with text messaging. This “cyber-bullying” is particularly pernicious because it can be done anonymously, without detection by parents or authorities.

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    Bullying: Bullying is an increasingly recognized problem in schools.