NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Violence in Schools

August 19, 1997

Add violence to the list of public schools' woes in the United States. Between July 1992 and June 1994, 105 school-related deaths were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Moreover, at least three million crimes now occur on or near school grounds each year.

Experts say that aside from the immediate physical toll, there are secondary effects: students are skipping school in fear for their safety, they are less attentive in class, more are carrying weapons for protection and teachers brave enough to work in crime-ridden schools are increasingly hard to find.

  • One in every nine students -- and one-third in high-crime areas -- said they had cut class or stayed away from school last year to avoid being beaten or shot, according to a Louis Harris & Assoc. poll.
  • One in every eight students carries a weapon to school for protection.
  • In high-crime areas, 40 percent carry weapons.
  • Some 71 percent of Hispanic teachers and 61 percent of black teachers view drugs and violence as problems at their school -- compared to 47 percent of white teachers.

Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) has a proposal to combat this public education crime wave.

  • He has introduced the Safe and Affordable Schools Act, which would allow students from low-income households to switch schools if they have been victims of violence.
  • Coverdell's bill would also establish a pilot educational voucher program in up to 30 school districts, allowing children in low- to middle-income families to attend the public, private or religious school of their choice for at least three years.

This year the federal government will spend $556 million to help states develop anti-drug and anti-violence programs for local school districts. New York City, for example, has a program using role-playing, interviewing and group discussions to train students to diffuse violence.

Some sociologists estimate that only 3 percent to 6 percent of students are responsible for crimes. But it only takes a few to intimidate an entire school, they point out.

Some 47 percent of students in grades six through 12 said teachers spend at least half of class time disciplining unruly classmates, according to a USA Today survey of more than 60,000 students.

Source: Carl F. Horowitz, "Controlling School Violence," Investor's Business Daily, August 19, 1997.


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