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Violence in South Florida Schools

According to Patrick J. Kiger, a freelance writer based in Washington, D. C. , most of the public is unaware of the rampant occurrence of violence in many schools. Some children are terrorized to such a degree that they suffer serious physical injuries, even death, which others may commit suicide to escape the torment. (Kiger 26) In a 1997 CDC survey, 8. 3% of high school students carried a weapon, 5. 9% carried a gun, 4% of students missed days of school because they felt unsafe. (Glazer 113) Some might not think this is a problem in schools in South Florida, but the truth is, violence in schools verywhere is a serious problem.

There are many possible causes for school violence. One reason could be the increase of psychiatric drug use by students. These drugs are given for hyperactive children and children with learning disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder). According to Kelly Patricia OMeara, a reporter for Insight on the News, many of the perpetrators of the high-profile massacres that occurred in schools between 1996 and 1999 were taking the psychotropic drugs Ritalin, Prozac, or Luvox.

Which according to OMearas findings, ause violent behavior, and therefore may have played a part in causing these students to act violently. Since December 1996, Two hundred and twenty three children, three years old and younger, were diagnosed with ADHD and fifty-seven percent of these young children were put on psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, Prozac, Dexedrine, Aventyl, and Syban. Even more amazingly, thirty percent were put on two or more of these drugs. (OMeara 51) In these early developmental years, these children may be learning violent behavior, which will cause them to react violently to harsh school life later on.

I had a personal experience with schools recommending Ritalin for young students. When I went to Unity School, in Delray Beach, it was recommended by the school principle that I saw a psychiatrist and put on Ritalin. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, thought that psychiatric drugs were not necessary. My parents removed me from that school and at my new school we found out that many kids attending Unity were put on medications. Also, all the kids I knew, who were on medications in grammar school, had to be rehabilitated for drug use and violent behavior years later.

At 18, and even 23 years old, they are still dealing with drug abuse and violence, which may have been brought on by prescription drugs early in life. Another, more controversial, possibility is that pop culture influences these children to be violent in school. According to media reports, the infamous Colorado high school duo, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who murdered twelve classmates and a teacher, were devotees to singer Marilyn Manson, who refers to himself as a god.

Also, in Mansons song, Irresponsible hate anthem, the lyrics read Hey, victim, should I lack your eyes again? Hey, victim,/You were the one who put the stick in my hand/I am the ism, my hates a prism/Lets just kill everyone and let your God sort them out The next question, of course, is what effect do songs like this have on young minds? According to Socrates, in Platos Republic, musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace. (Bennett 59) For some, pop culture has no influence. But, for others, pop culture teaches hildren that it is a dog-eat-dog world and they have to fight back.

Another thing pop culture inflicts on young minds is the portrayal of cliques. Recently, more than ever, many movies have been produced featuring high school life. These films show groups of high schoolers, labeled at cool, geeks, or freaks, among other names. It also always shows the uncool kids trying to be cool. This pop culture image magnifies the pressures of the high school struggle to fit in. Still some students feel they dont fit it, and never will. Any sign of this outsider status seems to be a warning sign, n our society.

After the shootings at Colombine, schools were even reported doing geek profiling, looking for any signs of trouble, such as not showing school spirit. (Bronski 64) Many disagree and say pop culture is not the perpetrator such as Jann S. Wennen, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine. He says rock and roll is too popular to blame. So instead can we blame Oliver Stone, director of Natural Born Killers? Yes, this movie is violent and distasteful, but a more violent movie, Steven Spielbergs Saving Private Ryan, hasnt gotten any blame, only praise.

After all, Spielberg s the establishments favorite film maker, according to Wennen. Adolescents are fully capable of distinguishing fantasy violence, from real violence. (Wennen 69) Another possible answer is that school violence is attributed to the availability of guns. A 1990 National Center for Education Statistics survey indicated that twenty one percent of 25,000 eight graders from 1,000 public and private schools reported they had witnessed weapons at school. The reality is virtually every man, woman, and child in the United States has easy access to weapons and handguns.

Despite new laws for unsafe torage of guns that are accessible to children younger than fourteen, most children obtain guns from their homes. (Wheeler/Baron 27) Parents are also getting some blame. Parents are being sued and jailed for their childrens crimes. In many states, including California, Illinois, and Oregon, parental- responsibility laws have been passed. Colorado and Florida, on the other hand, have not, but perhaps every state should. Even parents who know their child is committing a crime could be tried as an accomplice. Schrof 91)

No matter what grade or what school, every student is a potential victim for ome degree of on campus violence. Since February 9, 2001, at least four incidents were in the news. The first takes place in Gladview Elementary, where a first grader struck five classmates with a hypodermic needle. No one was sure where the child got the needle, but officials said the children hit were in no great danger. No punishment has been planned, but the school is scheduling a conference with his parents. (Hobbs) Another, more serious, incident took place May 26, 2000, at Lake Worth Middle.

Teacher Barry Grunow was murdered by a student. The students trial will be held on Court TV for the nation to see how serious a problem this really has become. (Pensa) Also, on February 27, 2001, a homemade bomb detonated at a Tampa high school. Luckily no one was injured, but the perpitrator was never revealed. Just yesterday, March 5, 2001, at a small high school in Santee, California, a student opened fire on his classmates. Two students were killed and eleven were injured, including a teacher. When I attended Lake Worth High School, there was only one incident, in two and a half years, that involved a weapon.

But, in my last year of high school, I ransferred to Atlantic High, in Delray Beach. In a little over one semester, there were three students suspended for bringing weapons to school, including knives and ice picks, students suspended for threats, student lockdown due to two bomb threats, and also a student arrested for bringing a backpack full of alcohol and weapons to school. Never would I have imagined that students would be scared to leave the classroom or take the bus home because they feared for their lives. If school violence wasnt such a problem in South Florida why would Superintendent Bill Marlin have to create a task force?

In February, sixty recommendations to reduce violence in schools was mentioned in the Sun Sentinel. Some ideas are to make school smaller, to teach teachers and students how to handle certain situations, also reducing the number of students per teacher, and expansion of student run programs such as the Youth Ambassadors. (Travis) Another idea for prevention is a return of school uniforms. When children wear school uniforms, there is less gang representation, as well as less violence. In California, mandatory-uniform policies were launched in 1994.

Since then, a survey showed, in a ear, assault and battery cases, in grades kindergarten through eighth, dropped by 34%, fights dropped by more than half, and there were 32% less suspensions. In South Florida, there are many optional school uniform policies and dress codes at almost every public school but not yet a mandatory-uniform policy at any local schools. (Portner 124) All over the United States, there is a debate about the increase or decrease in violent behavior in schools. Terrence Monmaney explains violent incidents are becoming less frequent but the media exaggerates the issue.

In surveys done between 991 and 1997, the number of students who said they carried a weapon to school dropped, as well as students who said they had gotten into fights on campus. (Monmaney 19) However, the FBI statistics show that juvenile crime has increased in rural communities, even thought juvenile crime nationwide is decreasing. (Koch 21) It doesnt matter what the statistics show, one incident of a child with a weapon is more than enough to conclude there is a serious problem. In most cases, the cause of this problem is never revealed. It is a shame so many young lives are lost, and students are scared to attend school.

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