It is important to consider the many factors that cause violence in our schools today. Some of these factors are media, bullying, mental and behavioral problems, abuse, etc. Our children deserve a safe environment to focus on the skills they need for a bright future.
Crime and violence among juveniles are becoming more frequent occurrences. American crime and violence have overflowed onto the university, and are now effecting senior high, junior high, and elementary schools everywhere. The purpose of this article is to consider issues repeatedly raised by public policy makers, educators, and juvenile justice authorities as possibilities for youth violence in schools.
A safe learning environment is necessary for students of all ages. Without it they are unable to focus on the skills they need for successful education and future. “Many youth are subjected to violence at the hands of those who should be protecting them. Therefore, they often have to make their own decisions without the guidance of elders, and they have learned from experience that they cannot count on anybody else. They come to believe that they have no one else to trust. As a result, many become narcissistic and self-centered and resort to aggression and violence as their first line of defense.” (Kennedy, 2012) The first gift we can give children and youth, then, is safety- both emotionally and physically.
Media plays a strong role in school violence. Exposure to violence through through television, movies, and video games increases aggressive behavior. In the United States, when watching television children see at least ten violent acts in an hour. “As children assimilate violence in the form of entertainment, they become desensitized to pain and suffering. They become anesthetized to trauma. Most of all they become insensitive to the consequences of ego- serving rage, the kind that endows the villain with power and invincibility.” (Kennedy, 2012)
Mental and behavioral problems are a factor in school violence. Youth with disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disease find it hard to see anything positive in their day to day lives. These mental illnesses cause emotional instability and distorted thinking patterns that may increase violent behavior. Disobedience, aggression, substance abuse, and frequent outbursts of anger are possible symptoms of mental illness. Regular psychological screenings in schools may be required to identify and treat afflicted students sooner.
Access to weapons is one of the main causes of school violence. Many homes have at least one firearm. An illegal sale of handguns increases accessibility to weapons. Childhood abuse is often a factor in school violence. When a child has been physically, mentally, or sexually abused their potential for inflicting abuse on others in and/or outside of school dramatically increases. Many children who have been abused are unable to speak against their abuser out of fear of retribution, rejection, or consequences. These children release their anger, frustration, and aggression out against themselves and their peers. Violent aggression is a learned behavior and coping mechanism in many youth who never learned the appropriate ways for handling conflict with words instead of violence.
Lack of parental guidance is also a contributing factor. Family and parents are supposed to provide a positive effect on children. However, today’s economy requires both parents to work. This leaves very little time for the children. Parents busy in their jobs are usually unable to address and solve their children’s problems and questions that arise in their minds as they encounter new things.
Bullying seems to be the key factor. Studies in the 1990s showed that bullying is harmful and poses serious lasting effects. When looking back at school shootings, “Nine in 10 shooters had a few close friendships; they belonged to outcast cliques but were not socially successful. Three fourths had been bullied, physically threatened, assaulted, or had their personal property damaged or stolen.” (Laursen, 2011). Recent school shootings show how victims’ frustration with bullying can turn into vengeful violence. “The two boys who carried out the Columbine shootings cast themselves as champions of victims of bullying in their videos and writings, some still available on the Internet.” (Dill, Redding, Smith, Surette & Cornell, 2011)
Dill, K.E., Redding, R.E., Smith, P.K., Surette, R. , Cornell, D.G. Recurrent issues in efforts to prevent homicidal youth violence in schools: Expert opinions. New Directions for Youth Development, 2011, 113-128 Laursen, E.K. (2011). Bullying and Violence in Schools and Communities. Counseling & Human Development, 44(2),1-16 Kennedy, Kelli. “7 Teens Charged with Beating Classmate Unconscious.” Yahoo News, January 7, 2012