Over the past several decades, increasing attention and concern has been given to incidents of school violence and the prevention measures utilized by schools. Surveys from the National Center for Education Statistics (2015) revealed that, in 2013, approximately 37 out of 1,000 students ages 12-18 experienced violent victimization at school, and in 2014, 18 percent of high school students in urban areas reported gang activity within their school. At the state level, 7.1 percent of students in Texas in 2013 reported that they were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, while 7.7 percent said that they felt unsafe and skipped school at least once during the thirty days before the survey.1 Incidents of violence have been shown to negatively affect attendance rates, graduation rates, academic performance, as well as the overall perception of safety by students.7, 10 It is worth noting, however, that despite these somewhat alarming statistics, schools remain very safe spaces for children, with deaths at school accounting for less than one percent of all suicides and homicides among children ages 5 to 18 in the United States.5
Many schools have taken measures to increase safety by installing surveillance cameras and metal detectors, along with hiring law enforcement personnel to work alongside educators. While these efforts have demonstrated some success, a growing body of research suggests that preventative actions – such as using interventions to target youth with elevated risk factors - may be more effective.3, 6 Creating a school climate that promotes academic engagement, connection to the community, and encourages meaningful relationships among peers and educators can not only reduce violent behaviors, but can also help students recover from the psychological trauma that these instances of violence may inflict.4, 8, 11 Because average juveniles spend about half of the time they are awake in educational environments, it is essential to ensure that they do not fear for their lives and well-being while at school.
The Behavioral Threat Assessment Model was created to address concerns about school violence. This model is unique compared to previous models, focusing more on longitudinal factors to mitigate threats before they manifest. Since it is often a classmate or staff member who sees early warning signs of a student in distress and at risk of committing an act of violence, communication between all members in a school is necessary in order to intervene and prevent violence. (Read more…)
School safety has been a topic of concern for educators, parents, and researchers for decades. It is important for students to have a safe learning environment to ensure they have the best possible opportunity to succeed academically. Further, it is necessary to discuss the many factors that influence student perceptions of safety, so stakeholders can determine best practices for creating a school climate conducive to academic success. (Read more…)
Fear of violence at school is a particularly concerning issue that can lead to truancy, weapon carrying on school property, poor academic achievement, and other unfavorable outcomes. Learning more about what ‘fear’ is and what contributes to student fear can help educators reduce the negative consequences associated with being afraid or perceiving risk while at school. (Read more…)
Resources for Schools
Information about juvenile gangs is available in different forms from various agencies. However, these forms are sometimes incompatible making sharing and comparing reports difficult. For example, the above descriptions of gang activity appear to have conflicting conclusions. These contrasts are most likely due to differences in definition and scope of study. The first step to making sense of information about gangs is to understand how they are typically defined. (Read more…)
Disciplinary responses to violence have varying degrees of effectiveness and consequences depending on the characteristics of the incident. While no punishment can undo the harm caused by a violent incident, disciplinary actions ideally seek to prevent further violence and restore normalcy. Choosing the most appropriate response can be challenging, but analyzing the context of violent incidents can be helpful in the decision-making process. (Read more…)
A Guide for Texas Educators
In Irving, Texas, a teenager was charged with human trafficking and prostitution after police discovered that he had drugged a fellow classmate, and held her for three days while he sold her to several men for money and drugs in exchange for sex. In another case, a teenage student in League City, Texas, was charged with prostitution after local authorities discovered that the 17-year-old male suspect was driving female students (ages 14 to 17) to a man's house for illegal sexual activity. (Read more…)
In 2003, 15 year-old Otralla (Trella) Mosley was murdered in her high school hallway by her ex-boyfriend. In 2011, 18 year-old Ashley Astley was stabbed and strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend at his home. These tragedies represent only two of the many cases of teen dating violence that ultimately have ended in loss of life. (Read more…)
School administrators and educators are responsible for the safety and security of their respective school districts and campuses. A key component to providing a satisfactory level of protection is to understand crime trends that occur within school districts and campuses. The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) understands the need to provide this level of information. As such, the TxSSC has undertaken a series of descriptive research articles to offer educators and school administrators introductory information relating to topics of safety and security. For instance, the TxSSC recently released an article titled Prevalence of School Crime that informed readers of crime rates experienced by schools across the nation. This article aims to build upon the knowledge gained from the prior article by addressing two separate goals. (Read more…)
The perception of schools as safe and secure environments is often transformed following a school shooting. The media attention these incidents garner further clouds this sentiment. In the aftermath of a school shooting, rigid school safety and security legislation is advocated, extra law enforcement officers are hired to patrol schools and news outlets continually discuss the shooting for an extended period of time.8 However, school shootings, such as the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, while devastating, are exceedingly rare. Blair and Martaindale (2013) found only 29 school shootings of this type from 2000-2010. That is, 29 school shootings out of all public schools in the United States. These 29 shootings resulted in 92 injured students out of the estimated 54,703,000 students enrolled in U.S. schools. (Read more…)
Dating violence has emerged as a major public health issue over the past several decades (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000; O'Keefe, 2005; Powers and Kerman, 2006). Until recently, incidents of dating violence have mainly been associated with college students and adults (O'Keefe, 2005). Research has begun to expose an alarming number of dating violence incidents involving youth, specifically teenagers. Research suggests that Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is more prevalent than previously believed (Powers and Kerman, 2006). Research has shown that there are no significant differences in prevalence rates between the sexes in TDV (Banyard and Cross, 2008). In addition, TDV has shown to have serious social, emotional, physical, and mental consequences at a crucial time in human development (O'Keefe, 2005). (Read more…)
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Youth Online: High School YRBS Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Results.aspx
2 Child Trends Data Bank. (2014). Physical Fighting by Youth. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=physical-fighting-by-youth.
3 Crawford, C., & Burns, T. (2015). Preventing school violence: Assessing armed guardians, school policy, and context. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 38(4), 631-647.
4 Curry, M. W. (2014). Being the change: An inner city school builds peace. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(4), 23-27.
5 Duplechain, R., & Morris, R. (2014). School violence: Reported school shootings and making schools safer. Education, 135(2), 145-150.
6 Fagan, A. A., & Catalano, R. F. (2013). What works in youth violence prevention: A review of the literature. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(2), 141-156. doi: 10.1177/1049731512465899.
7 Milam, A. J., Furr-Holden, C. D. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Perceived school and neighborhood safety, community violence and academic performance in urban school children. The Urban Review, 42(5), 458-467.
8 Mitchell, M. L., & Brendtro, L. K. (2013). Victories over Violence: The Quest for Safe Schools and Communities. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 22(3), 5-11.
9 National Center for Education Statistics (2014). Indicators of School Crime and Safety. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2014/ind_08.asp.
10 Patton, D. U., Woolley, M. E., & Hong, J. S. (2012). Exposure to violence, student fear, and low academic achievement: African American males in the critical transition to high school. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(2), 388-395. doi: 10.106/j.childyouth.2011.11.009.
11 Rajan, S., Namdar, R., & Ruggles, K. (2015). Aggressive and violent behaviors in the school environment among a nationally representative sample of adolescent youth. Journal of School Health, 85(7), 446-457.