Violence in education is actually lower in the new century, having decreased significantly since the 1990s. There are many programs and policies that have served to cause a lowering of school violence, while other forms of violence, such as emotional and physical bullying have the appearance of being on the rise. It is, however, difficult to determine whether there is media sensationalism or actual increases in bullying, that come from a combination of social networking and in-school bullying of the same people.
It is possible that there will never be a comprehensive picture of all anti violence programs and policies, because there is no central educational agency that can order a seamless, universal policy. Each state and each local community have the say as to how their schools operate, and thus, there is a crazy quilt of educational policy in the United States.
Some schools, for example, are so open that anyone can walk onto the campus and move freely, often with no video surveillance or human witness whatsoever. No one knows how or when 7 year old Kyron Horman disappeared after being seen within feet of his classroom. He is still missing.
Other schools are like prison lockups, with metal detectors and searches for weapons, contraband and drugs. In fact, more has been spent on the metal detectors than on the crumbling and hazardous buildings and classrooms in some of these schools.
The major programs that have shown promise have included forms of collaboration, anger management programs, zero tolerance and organized activities. Collaboration includes involving parents and students in disciplinary board investigation and decision making for serious misbehavior. Law enforcement is able to work in their crime and violence prevention programs through education, enforcement and anonymous tip lines.
The anonymous tip line concept, alone, may have accounted for early warning on a lot of incidents that could be prevented or thwarted, since students are notorious for not wanting to “snitch” on their classmates, even if death and mayhem would be prevented. Now they can use the internet or the phone to give early warning of problems before they develop into violence.
Organized activities and better survelliance between classes and after school have proved to be winning programs. Children are less inclined to make up their own societies and rules when they have a safe place and organized activities to engage in while under supervision and even volunteer parental involvement. Better yet, when the home life is dysfunctional, the children can have longer periods of escape from the dysfunction and to develop better social skills.
Many children from dysfunctional homes come to school with anger management issues. Even a basic anger management program, either through group sessions or individual counseling helps to show the child that there are alternative ways of managing conflict and interpersonal problems.
Finally, zero tolerance has gotten mostly negative press in the mainstream media, especially when there is publicity about a child who, for example, brings a kitchen knife to cut up an apple that is in their lunchbox. The fact is that kitchen knives do not need to be in lunch boxes or anywhere else on a child’s person when they come to school.
Thus, these cases bring to light the noncompliance of parents or caregivers who do not consider that knives and utensils can be lost, taken, stolen or can otherwise find their way into the hands of those who would use them in violent episodes.
The same goes for drugs, including over the counter medicines which can be handed to the school nurse and dispensed properly and with supervision. The fact is that, as with kitchen implements, even over the counter drugs can be taken, stolen or shared by children who are not aware that even over the counter medications can be harmful and even deadly if the wrong child takes them.
The last bastion of school violence is the property boundary of the school. Violence that occurs at school related or school sponsored events is a huge problem, especially since the school can deny any liability or responsibility in the matter. Yet, the conditions, actions and events that lead up to off site and school related violence do occur on school property, but are ignored and are taken care of before they erupt into actual violence away from school.
Much more work needs to be done to aggressively identify, to intervene, to break up and to discipline those who start problems on school property, especially when bullying that starts in the school follows both victim and perpetrator to their homes, to off property locations and even to the streets where all of a community can be placed in harm’s way.
While the victims can restrict access to their homes and can avoid the streets and off property events, they are compelled by law to go to school, which creates the originating and incubating conditions for bullying and harassment. Thus the schools have far more liability and responsibility than they are often being held to.
Finally, reporting incidents to parents is an issue that seems to have many areas of official non compliance or weakness. If the parents are unaware and the children are afraid to tell them, then the problem will head directly toward excessive behavior and violence, as the perpetrators of bullying and violence realize that no one is in charge but them.