Lately we can't turn on the TV or read a newspaper without hearing or reading about a school shooting somewhere in the country. Although most of us think about violence as a shooting or something similar, a good definition of school violence also includes teasing, laughing at others, picking fights, or being bullied. From this perspective, we can see that the issue of school violence is more complex than how the media often portray it.
How safe am I at school?
Believe it or not, you are actually safer at school than at a mall, on the street, or even inside your home! 1 In 1993, 12 percent of students reported that they had carried a weapon to school, whereas in 1999 only 7 percent reported carrying a weapon to school.2 However, in 2007 over one third of students in grades 9-12 reported that they had been in a fight the preceding year and nearly one fifth had carried a weapon(such as a gun, knife or club) to school in the preceding year.3
Why do some teens become violent?
There is no easy answer as to why some teens turn to violence. Sometimes they are copying behavior they have seen in other places, like on television or in the movies; other times, they are victims of teasing and don't know any other way to make their pain stop or to retaliate. Some teens are looking for attention that they haven't gotten in everyday life. Finally, the availability of weapons makes it easier for teens to strike out against people or things they don't like. Here are some warning signs that someone might be considering turning to violence.
If someone you know...
...tell an adult right away!
What if I am worried about someone at school acting violently?
If you begin feeling unsafe in school, you need to talk to an adult that you can trust. It doesn't matter if you aren't sure whether something will happen. It might be too late if you wait. Although it is sometimes hard to express the feelings you are having, it's important to resolve these kinds of issues. Ignoring your feelings won't make them just disappear!
If you feel that someone at your school is acting differently than they normally do and their behavior is bothering you, it's okay to tell someone. If you feel unsafe or think someone is thinking about hurting you, themselves, or others, you are not tattling on them by telling an adult. You are helping them.
What can I do to prevent violence in my school?
There are tons of ways to get involved in keeping your school safe. There might already be a club in your school or community that is dedicated to keeping your school safe.
Some schools hold anti-violence rallies before sporting events or have a peer mediation panel you could get involved in. If there are no existing programs, you could meet with your principal or guidance counselor to come up with a program for your school. You could hold an anti-school violence assembly or perhaps set up a page on your school's Web site about school violence. Making people aware of school violence might help prevent future incidences.
American Psychological Association: Warning Signs
KidsHealth.org: Should You Worry About School Violence?
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Youth Violence in the United States
2 National Center for Education Statistics: Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2000
3 Indicators of School Crime and Safety 11th edition