Violence in the Community
gangs, weapons, and substance abuse all contribute to the fear experienced by
many of today's students, violence in America's neighborhoods and communities
cannot be overlooked. Notwithstanding the sometimes unfounded and over
generalized fear and apprehension about violence among children and adults,
often fueled by the media, violence in America is a legitimate concern for
everyone. Likewise, research and statistics regarding juvenile victimization
cannot be entirely discounted as mere media sensationalism.
For example, according to
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, a report released in
1997 by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics in
Washington, D.C., almost 2.6 million youth ages 12 to 17 were victims of violent
crimes in 1994. For this study, violent crimes were defined as simple and
aggravated assault, rape, and robbery.43
The Federal Interagency Forum fosters coordination and collaboration in the
collection and reporting of Federal data on children and families, drawing on
numerous data sources.
In 1995, high school
seniors reported the following types of victimization at school: having
something stolen (more than 41 percent); having property deliberately damaged
(26 percent); being threatened with a weapon (more than 15 percent); and being
threatened without a weapon (more than 23 percent). Of these seniors, 4.7
percent had been injured with a weapon and 11.4 percent had been injured without
Many young people, aware of
the dangers that exist within their communities and schools, feel compelled to
make changes in their lifestyles. Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., conducted a
survey for NCPC and NICEL, Between Hope and Fear: Teens Speak Out on Crime and
the Community. Survey results were obtained from interviews of a nationally
representative sample of more than 2,000 students in grades 7 through 12. The
purpose of this 1995 survey was to focus on "the effect of the awareness and
fear of violence and crime on young people and the loss of freedom that
Of the students
interviewed, 29 percent said that they worried about being victimized in a
drive-by shooting, and 46 percent had made at least one change in daily routines
because of concerns about personal safety and crime and violence in their
communities. Following is a list of changes made in daily routines:
||Changed friends (22
parks or playgrounds (20 percent).
||Changed the way they
went to or from school (13 percent).
||Carried a weapon
(e.g., bat, club, knife, gun) to protect themselves (12 percent).
||Got lower grades in
school than they think they otherwise would have (12 percent).
||Stayed home from
school or cut class (11 percent).
||Found someone to
protect them (10 percent).
||Stopped attending a
particular activity or sport (10 percent).
Approximately 1 in 8
students changed the way they went to and from school and more than 1 in 10
stayed home from school or cut class because of concerns about crime and
violence in their communities. Such behavior reveals that many students fear for
their personal safety while merely attempting to attend school.46
The roots of violence reach
deep into society, tapping into such complex conditions as poverty, racism,
joblessness, and hopelessness. Each epidemic of violence triggers "knee-jerk"
calls for legislation and quick fixes. Often, however, little is done in the
long run to change conditions that give rise to violent behaviors. It should be
apparent that educators by themselves cannot carry out their mandate of
educating children while trying to rid their schools and surrounding communities
of violence. The National Association of School Boards of Education has pointed
out, "A community problem necessitates community-wide solutions. What has been
coined 'school violence' is nothing more than societal violence that has
penetrated the schoolhouse walls."47
Community violence gives
rise to subsets of associated violence that impact schools. The effects of
campus violence can be devastating to both individual students and specific
learning environments. Schools that lack effective discipline, respect for
academic standards, and basic humanitarian values falter in their mission to
provide safe and effective learning environments. Students who live in fear of
violence, witness violent acts, or actually become victims of violence suffer an
array of consequences ranging from personal injury and debilitating anxiety that
interrupt the learning process to a pattern of absence and truancy that can lead
to dropping out of school and delinquency. Such disassociation restricts
individual options and limits the development of academic and life skills.
|Safe Alternatives and
Violence Education (SAVE) is a violence awareness education
curriculum designed for 10- to 17-year-old students (and the parents
of such students) who are found carrying a weapon on or near a
school campus. The program was designed in 1993 in conjunction with
a countywide effort to reduce weapon possession by youth, especially
on school campuses. When a student is found in possession of a
weapon on or near a school campus, the student and a parent are
required to attend the SAVE program classes. Addressing the
relationship between violence and the media, the realities of weapon
possession, and the consequences of violence, the class is a
one-time, 6-hour, interactive violence awareness curriculum offered
year-round on Saturdays.
Referrals may be made by police
agencies, juvenile court/probation officials, local schools,
community agencies, or parents. Each SAVE class is staffed as needed
by three police officers and a language translator. Program
administration is handled by one full-time coordinator and a
supervising sergeant. Several San Jose school districts use the SAVE
program, either as an alternative to school expulsion or as a
condition of suspension/expulsion.
In April 1997, the Center for
Educational Planning, a division of the Santa Clara County Office of
Education, published a program impact evaluation of SAVE. The
evaluation reveals that almost 91 percent of the 372 students
included in the study have had no subsequent weapons offenses after
participating in the SAVE program. In addition, approximately 69
percent of the study participants have had no subsequent offenses of
For more information, contact
Suzan Stauffer, SAVE Coordinator, San Jose Police Department, 201
West Mission Street, San Jose, CA 95110, 408-277-4133.
Listed below are some of the
types of legislation and collaborative programs undertaken by national, State,
and local agencies working in partnership that are producing positive results in
reestablishing schools as safe havens for learning:
||Nearly all States
have developed some sort of crime-free, weapon-free, or safe-school zone
statute. Most States have defined the zones also to include school
transportation and locations of school-sponsored functions.
||The above statutes
have given rise to zero-tolerance policies for such things as weapons
and drugs. These policies are enforced by school districts and
individual schools, often with support from local police forces or
school-based resource officers.
established in 1994 mandate that all school districts set up programs to
test school bus drivers for drug and alcohol use.48
||Schools are forging
partnerships with court officials, probation officers, and other
youth-serving professionals to share information on and monitor students
who have criminal records or who are in aftercare programs following
their terms of incarceration in juvenile justice facilities.49
||School districts are
formulating crisis prevention/intervention policies and are directing
individual schools to develop such policies and individual safe-school
||School districts, in
response to local needs, have stepped up efforts to improve school
security by installing security aids or devices and providing services
criminal background checks on teachers and school staff members
before a work assignment is made.
Neighborhood Watch programs in areas near schools.
parents to provide safe houses along school routes and to
monitor "safe corridors" or walkways to and from school.
parent volunteers to monitor hallways, cafeterias, playgrounds,
and school walkways in order to increase visibility of
block safety watch programs carried out by area residents at
school bus stops as a crime deterrent for school children and
school grounds to secure campus perimeters.
bathroom doors with zigzag entrances, to make it easier to
monitor sounds, and installing roll-down doors to secure
bathrooms after hours.
one main door entry to school, equipping exits with push bars,
and locking all other doors to outside entry.
school with closed-circuit video surveillance systems to reduce
property crime such as break-ins, theft, vandalism, and
landscaping to create an inviting appearance without offering a
hiding place for trespassers or criminals.
motion-sensitive lights to illuminate dark corners in hallways
or on campus.
convex mirrors to monitor blind spots in school hallways.
classrooms with intercom systems connected to the central school
two-way radios to security patrols or campus staff members.
cellular phones for use in crises or emergency situations.
photo identification badges for students, teachers, and staff
and identification cards for visitors on campus.
Social Action Program (ASAP) at the University of New
Mexico (UNM) uses peer resistance and decision making
training to increase self-efficacy, social responsibility,
and life skills. Youth participants engage in social action
activities to address conditions that lead to high-risk
behaviors, such as substance use and abuse, gangs, and
violence. Preliminary research findings indicate a
significant impact on the development of positive coping
skills, the ability to influence others, and reduced rates
in teen drinking behaviors.
For more than 14 years,
ASAP has operated in more than 30 communities in New Mexico,
including Native-American reservations and small, rural
Hispanic communities. At the heart of ASAP is the work of
Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose model emphasizes
listening, dialog, and action. Small groups of students are
taken on supervised visits to a local or regional hospital
(three visits), a detention center (one visit), and the
Metro court (one visit). The students interview the patients
and inmates and listen to their stories. Then, using
critical thinking strategies, they examine the consequences
of the patients' and inmates' actions through dialogs led by
trained graduate and undergraduate university facilitators
and reflect on their own lives.
ASAP staff also conduct
and develop local and national training for teachers,
community groups, and health professionals on
empowerment-based education, peer education, and working
For more information,
contact Lily Dow, Adolescent Social Action Program, Family
Practice Building, Third Floor, 2400 Tucker NE.,
Albuquerque, NM 87131-5241, 888-738-2940, 505-272-5532,
|Creating Safer Schools
past decade in America, educational opportunity has gradually eroded in
the Nation's schools. That opportunity has been undermined by violence
and the fear of violence. Yet the Nation's basic precepts are intact: to
provide educational opportunity, foster individual accomplishment in a
diverse society, and preserve guaranteed rights and freedoms for all
Numerous prevention and
intervention strategies have been outlined here, each developed to
ensure that the Nation's schools are able to educate children in safe
environments and that all youth have the opportunity to learn, grow, and
mature as socially responsible citizens. Although these strategies are a
good starting point, more such interventions are needed. Through the
efforts of educators, law enforcement officials, and parents -- working
in concert to implement these strategies and continuing to test new ones
-- it is possible to reduce the violence found in today's schools and
create safe schools in every community.
Parents and Schools Succeeding in Providing Organized Routes
to Travel (PASSPORT) is a joint effort of the Visalia
Unified School District, Visalia Police Department, parents,
and community-based organizations. The California program
provides supervised routes for students to use when
traveling to and from school in high-crime or gang-oriented
areas. Parents receive a letter and map that indicate
recommended travel routes.
volunteers stand in front of their homes and "just watch"
during specified hours. Fights, intimidating behaviors, or
unsafe activities are immediately reported to the nearest
school or to other appropriate agencies. While on duty,
parents wear badges bearing the school name and district
logo; the back of the badge lists phone numbers for the
school, the district student services office, confidential
hotlines, and the gang suppression unit. Participating
businesses along the route display bright yellow signs in
their windows. These businesses have agreed to allow
students to use the phone if they are threatened or
intimidated. Students may remain at the business location
until their parents pick them up.
administrators and the safe school coordinator routinely
monitor and walk the PASSPORT routes, and the police
department regularly patrols the PASSPORT communities and
routes. Media publicity about PASSPORT encourages all
citizens to watch over schoolchildren to ensure their safe
passage to and from school. The program depends on
cooperative, volunteer efforts; actual dollar costs are
more information, contact Ralph Lomeli, Safe Schools
Coordinator, Visalia Unified School District, 315 East
Acequia, Visalia, CA 93291, 209-730-7579.
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