The causes of school violence are complex and varied. Forensic psychologists who study criminal behavior believe school killers are very different from other violent youth, such as gang members or drug dealers. For whatever reason, they feel powerless and begin obsessing over killing or injuring others. They may make direct threats concerning those they feel are taunting or intimidating them. They often express these thoughts and plans to fellow students. In general, other students tend to ignore the comments or simply look the other way.
Students from Columbine High School mourn the loss of their friends and classmates after a tragic shooting at their school in 1999.
The decision to kill for these youth is not a sudden occurrence, but coldly planned. Use of guns gives them the power they felt deprived of, and makes those offending them powerless. In addition, the shooters become famous with their faces splashed across televisions screens nationwide. The violent outbreak turns the tables and gives them both the power and attention they seek. This type of offender is almost always male; females approach retribution in less direct ways, such as hiring classmates or others to kill those they wish to strike out against.
Each case may represent a unique combination of factors. Some are physical, some behavioral, and others are learned. Physical factors can include birth complications. For example, being deprived of oxygen during the birth process can lead to brain dysfunction and learning disabilities. Violent behavior has been linked to certain forms of these abnormalities. Similarly, head injuries have been shown to increase the potential for violent behavior in certain individuals.
Behavioral problems can be linked to a difficult personality, which leads to problems of interacting with others, impulsiveness, and being unable to conform. These children may not blend into school activities and become ignored and rebellious. Some become depressed and take medication that can produce serious behavioral side effects. Broken family relationships can also be a major factor. Harshly treated children are more likely to behave violently later in life.
Being bullied or teased by others can often lead a troubled youth to violent revenge or retribution. This factor showed up repeatedly in the school shootings of the 1990s and beyond. It received the most attention from school administrators and others in the early twenty-first century.
Learning violent behavior can come from a dysfunctional or abnormal home life, perhaps involving domestic abuse or parents who do not respond well to authority figures such as the police. From this type of home environment, youth learn to react to authority such as teachers or school officials with aggression. Some believe learned violent behavior also comes from repeated exposure to violence in the media such as music lyrics, Hollywood movies, television programs, video games, and 24-hour news stations broadcasting violent or graphic scenes. Studies showed that youth exposed to an overwhelming amount of such material became more aggressive and no longer upset by violence and its consequences. These kids, it is believed, have trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy.
Schools themselves have changed a great deal since the 1950s, and by the later twentieth century they brought a wide range of students together from often markedly different social environments. Differences appear in attitudes and behavior that can lead to social cliques or racial tensions. A major change was the emergence of gangs, which doubled between 1989 and 1993. Gang activity within schools included recruiting new members, which often led to school violence as part of initiation. In addition, illegal activities in the vicinity of the school increased, such as selling drugs and firearms.
Yet another major factor in the rise of deadly school violence was the easy availability of firearms and other weapons. Estimates in the 1990s on the number of weapons brought to school on a daily basis were staggering. The number of guns brought into schools on any given day ranged up to over 250,000 and the number of knives more than double that figure.
Either school violence can be termed as a case whereby physical attack is involved between students in a school or even cases of students attacking the school staff. This has risen to be a serious problem in many countries over the recent years. These cases have left both teachers and students nervous about their safety in these schools. One of the main problems associated with school violence is that there are not enough statistics concerning the under-lying factors for school violence and their consequences to help teachers and parents to control their children.
Not all schools are safe and many large schools face increasing insecurity because of increasing violence within their compounds. Moreover, the students in the urban schools may be faced with more of this violence due to the lower socio-economic status they live in. There is a relationship between the minor violence and the serious ones. In this case, the Indiana’s schools reduce minor incidences on day-to-day basis in fear of these erupting to serious cases. There are different ways in which school violence occur. First, there may be a case where there is conflict in a certain school and then spills-over to the neighborhood. In this case, students misunderstanding occur in the school and since there is the fear of suspension from the school if a fight erupts, some of the students may prefer to attack each other within the immediate neighborhood. In the other case, there may be a conflict within the neighborhood, which results to a fight in school since the combatants may be schooling together. School conflict may start in school and the violence occurs in the same school. In another case, these conflicts may be initiated in the neighborhood and occur there.
It is important to study the main causes of this violence. Even thought there is no main cause of school violence, and that the wide reasons are complex and varied, we have some possible causes of school violence, which include overcrowded schools, gang activity, drugs, domestic abuse, anger issues and depression among others. Other psychological reasons may involve poor self-esteem and love affairs gone sore. The conflict theory can explain some of the conflicts associated with school violence. The conflict theory put emphasis on material, political and social inequalities as the source of such violence. Students who come from poor economic backgrounds may feel inferior and in order to prove themselves to the well-endowed students may become physically violent. This may explain some of the major school violence exhibited in mixed race schools. According to a fact sheet on school violence (centers for disease control and prevention), the following facts are associated with school violence.
- Roughly, 38% of public schools accounted for at least one violent episode to the police department during recent academic years.
- About 24% of all high school students were familiar with gangs in their schools.
- 12-18 year old students were victims of about 628,200 crimes at their schools. These crimes included rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
- About 30% of school going students reports either being bullied, being a bully or the two of them.
- Bullies are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke, abuse other substances and get involved in fights according to the same statistics.
- Middle school students are twice as likely to be affected by school violence when compared to high school students.
- To avoid bullies around 7% of eighth graders do not go to school at least once a month.
- About 22% of 11 and 12-year-olds in urban settings are familiar with at least one age-mate involved in a school gang.
- In the past seven years, 116 students died in 109 separate incidents at school. This represents on average 16.5 student homicides each year.
- Almost 50% of homicide criminals gave a warning signal like making a threat and or leaving a note before the crime.
- Surprisingly most violent deaths occur during school transition times, either before and or after the school day during school breaks when there is minimal supervision.
It is likely for a student to engage in violence in cases whereby his/her parents are constantly fighting at home, or may be using abusive language. This is because the student sees this as something of the ordinary. Another factor that may encourage school violence is whereby there is easy availability of weapons. Children may purchase these weapons cheaply and use them in acts of bullying. In serious cases, students may even use these weapons to kill other people. An example of this is the Virginia Tech massacre, which involved a senior level undergraduate student who killed 32 people before committing suicide. The main cause of the student’s action was severe anxiety disorder and a major depression disorder. Depression and anxiety is therefore a contributing factor to this violence. This occurs when the student is experiencing severe depression. He/she expresses this condition through violence in form of bullying, theft or rape among others.
A student who faces lack of love and affection may also become violent. This is the case mostly with orphaned students or students living with alcoholic parents. Students may also involve in violence whereby there are no supportive teachers. This is whereby the teacher is not helping a student through difficulties, which leads to frustration. In this approach, the teacher is after making money and may see the student as a client. It is the teacher’s duty to guide the student and help to him/her. A student may also result to violence when he/she is unsure of his career or future and hence proper guidance and help is required.
We can use the theory of social disorganization to explain the above incidents. This theory emphasizes that the breakdown in the traditional social control and organizations in our societies, neighborhoods, communities and our families result in deviant behavior and criminal activities, especially in our children. When this happens then the behaviors and crimes will also be committed in schools where children spend most of their time.
School violence occurs in many ways. The level of violence has risen over the recent years. There are cases of theft and gang wars among others. This has posed severe dangers to the learning students whereby violence in schools has gone to its extremity. It is very alarming that students who have not even reached puberty are not afraid to hold guns and knives. In the United States of America, These cases are experienced. Questions are raised as to what exactly motivates these forms of actions. No child is born as violent. It is the many things that the child is exposed to that lead to his/her behavior. An example is the case whereby parents get married and then divorce. This may affect the kid and he/she may be vulnerable to violence in the future.
Some schools may also not pay attention to the violent activities that occur in the schools. Lack of penalties for such cases may further encourage these acts. Harsh punishments can be used to discourage students from practicing bullying or any other form of violence. Media also plays a huge role in promoting violent activities in the school. This is resulted from students watching violent movies, which encourage them to try to do the same. In this way, kids learn to handle things in a violent manner in which they would not have learnt otherwise. In the recent days, parents in mostly developed countries are so into their jobs and therefore do not pay much attention to their kids. As mentioned earlier, lack of love and affection encourage the child to engage in violent activities. In schools, this form of violence continues to generate more copycats who would not hesitate to go on with the violent acts. These forms of tragedy cannot be fully prevented, but there are signs that can be detected in a personality to hint on an unusual behavior in a student that may result to violence. Even if this true, these signs may not totally prove that a student is in any way dangerous.
Some of the psychological barriers standing between the ways of sanity in these students may not be fully overcome. This is because there are varying standards of behavior in the environments the students live in. It is therefore hard to approach some of the concerned parents about the behaviors of a particular student since the member of the family must be monitored closely. This helps in helping the individual psychologically.
If we study the neighborhoods the kids live in, it is a matter of considerations in the number of gangs growing up in those neighborhoods. These can be named as proto-gangs since they are not named. In some cases, these proto-gangs are engaged in drug trafficking, and therefore pose a significant threat to the young people. This is because these gangs often seek loyalty in the children living around the blocks. The recruited students end up involving themselves in drug addiction. Because of this when there are conflicts between blocks, violence may result and weapons may be used by the concerned members. Many of the students may define their friends according to the blocks they belong.
The block is therefore seen as a certain form of a family with members of different ranks in it. The members of the block serve and protect the block in all ways. This results to a considerable level of loyalty for the said block by its members. The main reason for block conflicts is that for the search for respect. These conflicts are ever changing. Some of the students also fight to achieve or maintain respect for them. This never ending rivalry between the members of these blocks gives the students, mostly the ones involved in the ‘block life’, a sense that nowhere is safe and that one needs to be on guard always. This results to the student carrying weapons always as a way to give him/her the feeling of security against the threat from the rival blocks. By showing possession of a weapon, there is the sense that one is not afraid to defend himself and hence is respected.
Strategies have been laid down to help prevent school violence. Maternal Child Health (MCH) among other public professionals helps in reducing the number of these cases by engaging in a number of activities. A staff person can be designated from the State Injury prevention program. The selected person can work with other people in the violent prevention programs and assist community public health organizations working in schools.
The MCH can also work with State and Federal departments and in this way, they can educate the school staff on the importance of reporting incidences of violence in an aim to increase incident data collection. In this way, the public health staff can assist these partners to find more ways to prevent this violence.
Educational campaigns can also be held when the public health staff collaborates with State departments. These campaigns can be used to educate the youth about the dangers of involvement in school violence. Violence can also be cut by involving the community, family and students. Preventive programs like those that bullying prevention and anger management has far better results than the electronic means like video surveillance cameras and metal detectors. This form of comprehensive prevention has been highly effective. With this method, school suspensions have dropped by 35%. Another comprehensive approach has begun to appear like the most suitable method to address complexity of emotional and behavioral problems successfully. This approach prescribes three levels of intervention.
The first level is by creating a school climate that is safe and responsive. The second one is early identification and intervention while the third involves effective responses to disruption and crisis. The first level of creating a safe and responsive climate for students involves implementing improved classroom management school wide. Early intervention and identification involves detecting early warning signs of violence within the youth assisting the students who are at risk of violence. School procedures are supposed to be aware of these signs and therefore provide procedures to respond to these threats. Finally, the effective responses to disruptions are applied in cases of these violence attacks.
The responses may involve expulsion and suspension among others. Zero tolerance may be practiced as in the case of the two students who were expelled for two years for being involved in a fight in Decatur. Zero tolerance has been encouraged and has gained popularity in many administrators. However, there is no evidence that this form of punishment yields any positive results.
In conclusion, more strategies have been laid down to help prevent the occurrence of this form of violence. Parents are also advised to be aware of their children’s activities and not to leave the whole responsibility to the teachers. It is important for the youth to understand that there are better ways to solve their differences without necessarily involving in violence.
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