NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Schools' Flexibility In Dealing With Violence

April 29, 1999

In the wake of the Littleton, Colo., tragedy, suggestions regarding how to prevent a similar occurrences are rampant. But public school administrators are legally barred from implementing many of the policies under discussion, from metal detectors to locker searches. Various violence-prevention programs -- such as anger management, conflict resolution, and gang prevention, while perhaps legally admissible, are not backed up by proof that they work.

Experts suggest that private schools, not being bound by civil liberties restraints, have more opportunity to experiment. In fact, violence in private schools is much less of a problem than it is in public schools.

There are several reasons for this, observers report:

  • Private-school administrators have a built-in incentive to maintain their schools' reputations for safety if they are to continue attracting students and making profits.
  • Private schools are free to experiment with violence- prevention policies in areas such as same-sex schools or same-race schools -- to determine whether these work or not.
  • A whole range of disciplinary policies, which would be legally banned in public schools, is available to private- school administrators.
  • The option of offering moral, ethical or religious instruction -- which courts would throw out for public schools -- is available to private schools.

These considerations suggest to some who are searching for answers that school choice -- whether based on vouchers, charter schools or private scholarships -- may hold at least part of the solution to the problem of increasing violence in public schools.

Source: Alexander Volokh (Reason Public Policy Institute), "School Choice Could Help Alleviate Violence," Wall Street Journal, April 29, 1999.


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