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School Shootings

The problem we are facing today with violence in the schools is a major concern with communities everywhere. Juvenile homicide is twice as common today as it was in the mid 1980’s. It isn’t the brain that the kids are born with that has changed in half a generation; what has changed though is the easy access to guns and the glorification of revenge in real life and in entertainment. Crime in and around schools is threatening the well being of students, as well as the staff and surrounding communities. It also affects the learning and student achievements.

Violence is found more in public schools rather than Catholic schools. Most Catholic schools have less tolerance and is a better teaching environment. It is said that uniforms help to keep more peace in the school. The students don’t get made fun of for not wearing the “in look” or name brand clothing. Making fun of, or laughing at other students contribute to low self-esteem, which is one characteristic of a student who brings violence in the schools. In 1997, more than of the schools reported at least one crime incident. Also, in 1997 one out of ten schools reported at least on serious violent crime.

Ten percent of all public schools have experienced one or more serious violent crimes, such as, murder, rape, suicide, sexual battery, and physical attack of fighting with a weapon or robbery. Crime and violence seem to be more of a problem in high schools and middle schools rather than elementary schools. In 1997 45% of elementary schools reported on or more acts of violence, middle schools reported 74% and high schools 75%. One of the goals of the National Education Goals was that by the year 2000, all schools in America will be free of drugs, alcohol, violence and the presence of firearms by unauthorized personnel.

The also wanted a disciplined environment that is acceptable for learning. This goal has obviously not been reached yet. The crimes that are occurring the most in schools are vandalism, theft/larceny, physical attacks or fighting without a weapon. The report of physical attack or fighting with a weapon was calculated as 6%. Even though weapons related crime is not as high of a percentage as everything else, it is still one of the biggest and must be eliminated. Weapons are one of the worst things that could happen in a school. The school administration should adopt a zero tolerance strategy or something very similar.

When the staff and students arrive at school, they should feel safe and secure. People should be able to walk in a school and not have to worry if someone is going to ridicule, attack or shoot them. School administrations are reviewing security and crisis plans, but they are quick to point out there is no one answer to providing a safe school environment. Everyone wants on simple solution, but there is not one. People have to work toward getting and maintaining school safety. No matter how well prepared or how safe anyone thinks a plan is, it will never be 100% fool proof. Someone will always find a way around any plan.

Most incidents could and can be prevented by students, parents, teachers, or citizens by sharing information they know with the schools or police. It is a known fact that before a crime occurs, someone (other than the person planning it), knows that the crime is going to happen. But no one comes forward because they think nothing like this could happen in their community or school. Violence can happen anywhere or at anytime. Remember Jonesboro or Columbine, someone knew what the students were planning and did not go to the police or school officials. Schools should pay attention too not only the major threats but also the littlest ones.

Schools in Texas cancelled the last two weeks of classes due to repeated bomb threats, but due to parental and community outrage, school officials had to reopen the schools a few days later. Four boys in Michigan were charged with plotting a shooting because someone came forward. This prevented another Columbine-like incident. This is the way it should be. It only takes one person to come forward and save the lives of others. A common trend in school shootings is they have all happened in a community where people felt safe. Since the outbreak of school shootings the perception of schools being safe has changed.

But the fact still remains that school is the safest place for children, on the other hand schools have always been easy targets for violence. Even though the use of guns by students is growing, the number of violent incidents is dropping. Metal detectors, ID cards, and security cameras and devices are finding a new home in schools. This is to show people that some type of security measure is being taken. Schools should be safe enough that no security devices are needed. Although metal detectors are very useful, they are only a small portion of the solution.

Schools must also look at other prevention methods. As I said before, every incident in the last few years, there was someone else that knew about it before it happened. And for some reason or other, people have refused to pay attention to it. This must be changed. People listen to cries for help, why not these ones? It is basically the same thing, so why not pay just as much attention to it. Safety is not a hear and there thing, it is an every second thing, students should be able to go to school and feel safe. It has been said that violence on television is a contributor to kids committing violence.

Is this really true? Of course it is a contributor, but not as big as people make it out to be. Most of the students committing these crimes fit into basically the same profile. They were angry, alienated, low self-esteem and had a history of emotional problems. They are students who hold a grudge. Most of these students write about what they are planning to do. But experts say there is no way to spot a potential killer. In 1998 the FBI was to release a report listing problem characteristics to help parents and educators identify the seriousness of a student’s threat.

The report details warning signs in four areas of a student’s life: 1) personality, 2) family, 3) school behavior, and 4) other factors such as drugs and alcohol. This report is supposed to be very helpful to parents and school officials in controlling the safety of their school. Some indicators that would turn a student to violence are: 1) social withdraw, 2) excessive feelings of isolation behavior, and 4) what went on early in the kid’s life. What made these students into killers that they would consciously go out and kill people? No one will ever know except the student who did it. What steps should be taken to help these kids?

School counselors are a good idea, but they seem to be preoccupied with students who have learning disabilities. Many schools are now adopting a zero tolerance policy. They are pulling out every student who does anything suspicious. When a school expels a student for writing about violence for an assignment is said to be an overreaction. But is it? Incidents like th boy in Virginia who was expelled for waving a stapler on the school bus, or the girl in Florida who was suspended or bringing finger nail clippers to class, and the boy who wrote “you will die with honor” when his teacher asked him to write a fortune cookie message.

These three are all ridiculous and there in no reason to carry it that far. Zero tolerance is good, but not for these cases. But the students who bring guns to school, start fires or threaten the lives of others should be expelled immediately. Zero tolerance should cover serious offenses like, violence, weapons, threats, drugs, alcohol, bomb threats, cheating and harassment. In 1998, statistics showed the crime rate in the United States declined 6. 4% and murder went down 7. 4%. Forty years ago a poll showed 50% of U. S. homes had guns, in 98 there was 35% reported.

This is good, but it lessens the likelihood or easiness of a child getting their hands on a gun. 24% of kids polled said they were afraid of a killer being at their school, so obviously adults are more worried than kids. There are four factors that increase youth violence: 1) easy access to weapons, usually handguns; 2) early usage of drugs and alcohol; 3) association with antisocial groups; 4) repeated exposure to violence in the media and television. 81% of guns brought to school is reported to have come from the home. Large, overcrowded schools and classrooms have an impact on school violence.

This prevents teachers from having a meaningful relationship with students. Overcrowding increases the risk for vandalism and discipline problems. We have to change our schools! Some methods could be locks on doors, metal detectors, random weapon searches, school uniforms and a positive school environment. It is recommended schools keep a zero tolerance policy, for any and all acts of violence. Decrease the number of unlocked entrances and exits, require students to carry a hall pass when roaming during class period, but keep passes to a minimum and necessity basis only. These can be the beginning steps of a safer school environment.

You could sit and contemplate for the next 20 years trying to figure out what cause these kids to do the thing they do. Could it be the big schools they are in, or coming form single parent homes, or maybe even the violent movies that drive these kids to do this. No one will ever really know, but the only real thing we know is these kids saw the way to get rid of their problems was to get of other people. So there is no real way to explain the tragedies that keep occurring. Let’s take preventive measures now, rather than after it occurs. Let’s not have a Columbine before something is done.

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