Violence as an impediment to education
The Justice Department (1991) corroborated the NSBA (1994) study stating that 82 percent of the school officials surveyed believe school violence has increased in the past five years, especially student-on-student violence.
Violence or the threat of violence has a direct impact on the quality of
education provided and on the way teachers and students work together in the classroom. Students are very perceptive. They may not articulate their perceptions, but most students know whether or not they are receiving a good education, an education that will prepare them to compete in the job market, college, or anywhere else. When students perceive that their education is inadequate or inferior, when the expectations for them are less than for others in the class, they often develop a sense of helplessness and frustration (Futrell, 1994). This sense of frustration often turns to anger and violence when they don’t know how to handle the obstacles to an effective education. For example, academic failure in school contributes to delinquency, antisocial behavior, and criminal activity—all of which can lead to violence. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation Network report, The Challenge of Youth Violence (Sausjord & Friedman, 1994), “Youth who lack basic skills and a strong sense of self-worth are more likely to be drawn into violence.”
Students frequently act out their hostility by being disruptive. This in turn creates an atmosphere in the classroom and the school that militates against constructive teaching and learning. For example, teachers are less apt to teach at their full potential, class assignments are less
creative and challenging, and the ethos in the school is less motivating if tension constantly permeates the environment. In addition, teachers, like students, are less eager to go to school every day. Thus, students in these schools are much more likely to be taught by a “revolving door” of substitutes (Kozol, 1991; Wise, 1993).
MEASURES TO ENSURE SCHOOL SAFETY
Youth violence in many schools, frequently mirroring the situation in the surrounding community, has reached pandemic proportions. In some communities the situation is so bad that young offenders are being sent to boot camps or “shock incarceration programs,” or are required to perform supervised community service.
Especially frightening is the increased availability of weapons, guns in particular. The fact that more and more weapons are showing up in schools underscores how readily accessible they are. In response to this phenomenon, schools are resorting to random checks of students’
book bags, backpacks, or lockers. They are also increasing their use of metal detectors to identify students carrying weapons. Many schools are moving to physical means of control—fences, blocked access roads, and locked and chained doors—to guard against violence.
Such measures are costly and reflect the real and unpleasant image of being locked up. They divert funds from efforts to reform education and restructure schools: to raise standards by improving the curriculum, reducing class size, providing professional development programs for teachers or special programs for students.
All of the strategies described herein are important and, perhaps, necessary. However, they are too little and, perhaps, too late. Most strategies to curb violence in school and society are designed to respond to violence after it has occurred rather than to prevent it.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education Box 40, Teachers College Columbia University New York, New York 10027 212/678-3433 800/601-4868 212/678-4012 (Fax) Director: Erwin Flaxman Associate Director: Larry R. Yates Managing Editor: Wendy Schwartz This publication was produced by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, United States Department of Education, under contract number RR93002016, and from Teachers College, Columbia University. The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of OERI or the Department of Education. Preventing Violence in Schools Gang Activity at School: Prevention Strategies School Violence and the Legal Rights of Students: Selected Issues
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