School violence is widely held to have become a serious problem in recent decades in many countries, especially where weapons such as guns or knives are involved. It includes violence between school students as well as physical attacks by students on school staff.
The Education Minister of the State of Queensland said in July 2009 that the rising levels of violence in schools were "totally unacceptable" and admitted that not enough had been done to combat violent behaviour. 55,000 students had been suspended in the state's schools in 2008, nearly a third of which were for "physical misconduct".
In South Australia, 175 violent attacks against students or staff were recorded in 2008. Students were responsible for deliberately causing 3,000 injuries reported by teacher over two years from 2008 to 2009.
46% of Principals in Western Australia have been either physically assaulted or witnessed physical violence in schools during 2012. 70% of school leaders had also been threatened with violence. Schools in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory rated far higher than other states in terms of threats of violence.
A recent study found that violence experienced by teachers in francophone Belgium was a significant factor in decisions to leave the teaching profession.
Following "numerous reports over the past decade about school violence", the Education Minister in 2009 introduced stricter regulations about student behaviour, including inappropriate dress, being drunk, and carrying mobile phones. Teachers were to be given new powers to punish disruptive students.
The French Education Minister claimed in 2000 that 39 out of 75,000 state schools were "seriously violent" and 300 were "somewhat violent".
A survey by the Education Ministry showed that students at public schools were involved in a record number of violent incidents in 2007—52,756 cases, an increase of some 8,000 on the previous year. In almost 7,000 of these incidents, teachers were the target of assault.
In 2006, in response to the suicide of a girl after she was sexually molested in school, the Polish Minister of Education, Roman Giertych, launched a "zero tolerance" school reform. Under this plan, teachers would have the legal status of civil servants, making violent crimes against them punishable by higher penalties. Head teachers (equivalent to principals in the US) will be, in theory, able to send aggressive pupils to perform community service and these students' parents may also be fined. Teachers who fail to report violent acts in school could face a prison sentence.
The South African Human Rights Commission has found that 40% of children interviewed said they had been the victims of crime at school. More than a fifth of sexual assaults on South African children were found to have taken place in schools. Exposure to domestic violence, gangsterism, and drugs have had a substantial impact on student performance.
A government inquiry in 1989 found that 2 percent of teachers had reported facing physical aggression. In 2007 a survey of 6,000 teachers by the teachers' trade union NASUWT found that over 16% claimed to have been physically assaulted by students in the previous two years. On the basis of police statistics found through a Freedom of Information request, in 2007 there were more than 7,000 cases of the police being called to deal with violence in schools in England.
In April 2009 another teachers' union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, released details of a survey of over 1,000 of its members which found that nearly one quarter of them had been on the receiving end of physical violence by a student.
In Wales, a 2009 survey found that two-fifths of teachers reported having been assaulted in the classroom. 49% had been threatened with assault.
According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, school violence is a serious problem. In 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data were available, a nationwide survey, conducted biennially by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and involving representative samples of U.S. high school students, found that 5.9% of students carried a weapon (e.g. gun, knife, etc.) on school property during the 30 days antedating the survey. The rate was three times higher among males than among females. In the 12 months antedating the survey, 7.8% of high school students reported having been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property at least once, with the prevalence rate among males twice that as among females. In the 12 months antedating the survey, 12.4% of students had been in a physical fight on school property at least once. The rate among males was twice the rate found among females. In the 30 days antedating the survey, 5.5% of students reported that because they did not feel safe, they did not go to school on at least one day. The rates for males and females were approximately equal.
The most recent U.S. data on violent crime in which teachers were targeted indicate that 7 percent (10 percent in urban schools) of teachers in 2003 were subject to threats of injury by students. Five percent of teachers in urban schools were physically attacked, with smaller percentages in suburban and rural schools. Other members of school staffs are also at risk for violent attack, with school bus drivers being particularly vulnerable.
The individual child
Internalizing and externalizing behaviors
A distinction is made between internalizing and externalizing behavior. Internalizing behaviors reflect withdrawal, inhibition, anxiety, and/or depression. Internalizing behavior has been found in some cases of youth violence although in some youth, depression is associated with substance abuse. Because they rarely act out, students with internalizing problems are often overlooked by school personnel. Externalizing behaviors refer to delinquent activities, aggression, and hyperactivity. Unlike internalizing behaviors, externalizing behaviors include, or are directly linked to, violent episodes. Violent behaviors such as punching and kicking are often learned from observing others. Just as externalizing behaviors are observed outside of school, such behaviors also observed in schools.
Other individual factors
A number of other individual factors are associated with higher levels of aggressiveness. Compared to children whose antisocial conduct begins in adolescence, early starters have a worse prognosis in terms of future aggression and other antisocial activities. Lower IQ is related to higher levels of aggression. Other findings indicate that in boys early problematic motor skills, attentional difficulties, and reading problems predict later persistent antisocial conduct.
The home environment is thought to contribute to school violence. The Constitutional Rights Foundation suggests long-term exposure to gun violence, parental alcoholism, domestic violence, physical abuse of the child, and child sexual abuse teaches children that criminal and violent activities are acceptable. Harsh parental discipline is associated with higher levels of aggressiveness in youth. There is some evidence indicating that exposure to television violence and, to a lesser extent, violent video games is related to increased aggressiveness in children, which, in turn, may carry over into school.
Straus adduced evidence for the view that exposure to parental corporal punishment increases the risk of aggressive conduct in children and adolescents. Straus's findings have been contested by Larzelere and Baumrind. A meta-analysis of the vast literature on corporal punishment, however, indicates that corporal punishment is related to poorer outcomes in children and youth. The methodologically soundest studies indicate "positive, moderately sized associations between parental corporal punishment and children’s aggression." Gershoff found that the trajectory of mean effect sizes (the size of the effect of corporal punishment on children's problem behavior) was curvilinear with the largest mean effect size in middle school (M = 0.55; on average the mean of corporal punishment group was more than half a standard deviation higher than the mean of the non-punishment group) and slightly smaller effect sizes in grade school (M = 0.43) and high school (M = 0.45).
Gerald Patterson’s social interactional model, which involves the mother’s application and the child's counterapplication of coercive behaviors, also explains the development of aggressive conduct in the child. In this context, coercive behaviors include behaviors that are ordinarily punishing (e.g., whining, yelling, hitting, etc.). Abusive home environments can inhibit the growth of social cognitive skills needed, for example, to understand the intentions of others. Short-term longitudinal evidence is consistent with the view that a lack of social cognitive skills mediates the link between harsh parental discipline and aggressive conduct in kindergarten. Longer-term, follow-up research with the same children suggests that partial mediating effects last until third and fourth grade. Hirschi's (1969) control theory advances the view that children with weak affective ties to parents and school are at increased risk of engaging in delinquent and violent behavior in and out of school. Hirschi's cross-sectional data from northern California high-school students are largely consistent with this view. Findings from case-control and longitudinal studies are also consistent with this view.
Neighborhoods and communities provide the context for school violence. Communities with high rates of crime and drug use teach youth the violent behaviors that are carried into schools. Dilapidated housing in the neighborhood of the school has been found to be associated with school violence. Teacher assault was more likely to occur in schools located in high-crime neighborhoods. Exposure to deviant peers is a risk factor for high levels of aggressivity. Research has shown that poverty and high population densities are associated with higher rates of school violence. Well controlled longitudinal research indicates that children's exposure to community violence during the early elementary school years increases the risk of aggression later in elementary school, as reported by teachers and classmates. Other, well controlled longitudinal research that utilized propensity score matching indicates that exposure to gun violence in early adolescence is related to the initiation of serious physical violence in later adolescence. Neighborhood gangs are thought to contribute to dangerous school environments. Gangs use the social environment of the school to recruit members and interact with opposing groups, with gang violence carrying over from neighborhoods into some schools.
Recent research has linked the school environment to school violence. Teacher assaults are associated with a higher percentage male faculty, a higher proportion of male students, and a higher proportion of students receiving free or reduced cost lunch (an indicator of poverty). In general, a large male population, higher grade levels, a history of high levels of disciplinary problems in the school, high student to teacher ratios, and an urban location are related to violence in schools. In students, academic performance is inversely related to antisocial conduct. The research by Hirschi and others, cited above in the section on the home environment, is also consistent with the view that lack of attachment to school is associated with increased risk of antisocial conduct.
Lax school authorities
In 2005 on a school bus in Montgomery County, Maryland, an 11-year old girl was attacked by a group of several older boys who, the girl said, grabbed her breasts and feigned sex acts. Also in 2005 on a school bus in Colonial Heights, Virginia, south of Richmond, three boys and two girls aged 8 to 13 held an 11-year-old girl down in the back of the bus and sexually assaulted her. In the Maryland case, the child's mother, not the school, called the police, although a school administrator did notify the girl's mother (the students were not charged with sexual assault because the police mishandled the paperwork). In the Virginia case, the girl told her mother and was taken to a police station, prompting coordinated investigations by the police and the school. The bus driver testified she saw the incident happening but never stopped the bus. The girl was dropped off at her normal bus stop.
In 2008, the Baltimore School District failed to intervene in an act of violence committed against a teacher. A student had taken a video of a peer beating her art teacher. School officials ignored the problem until the video was posted on MySpace. Some cases of school violence have not been brought to the attention of the authorities because school administrators have not wanted their schools labeled unsafe under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. With or without NCLB, in the US, there has been a history of underreporting violent incidents occurring in schools.
The goal of prevention and intervention strategies is to stop school violence from occurring. According to the CDC, there are at least four levels at which violence-prevention programs can act: at the level of society in general, the school community, the family, and the individual.
Society-level prevention strategies aim to change social and cultural conditions in order to reduce violence regardless of where the violence occurs. Examples include reducing media violence, reshaping social norms, and restructuring educational systems. The strategies are rarely used and difficult to implement.
School-wide strategies are designed to modify the school characteristics that are associated with violence. An avenue of psychological research is the reduction of violence and incivility, particularly the development of interventions at the level of the school. The CDC suggests schools promote classroom management techniques, cooperative learning, and close student supervision. At the elementary school level, the group behavioral intervention known as the Good Behavior Game helps reduce classroom disruption and promotes prosocial classroom interactions. There is some evidence that the Second Step curriculum, which is concerned with promoting impulse control and empathy among second and third graders, produces reductions in physically aggressive behavior. Other school-wide strategies are aimed at reducing or eliminating bullying and organizing the local police to better combat gang violence.
The implementation of school-wide early-warning systems, the school equivalent of a DEW Line-like surveillance operation designed to "prevent the worst cases of school violence," has been problematic. Recent developments in early threat assessment, however, show promise. Violence-prevention efforts can also be usefully directed at developing anti-bullying programs, helping teachers with classroom-management strategies, applying behavioral strategies such as the Good Behavior Game, implementing curricular innovations such as the Second Step syllabus, developing programs to strengthen families (see below), and implementing programs aimed at enhancing the social and academic skills of at-risk students (see below).
Some intervention programs are aimed at improving family relationships. There is some evidence that such intervention strategies have modest effects on the behavior of children in the short and long term. Patterson's home intervention program involving mothers has been shown to reduce aggressive conduct in children. An important question concerns the extent to which the influence of the program carries over into the child's conduct in school.
Some prevention and intervention programs focus on individual-level strategies. These programs are aimed at students who exhibit aggression and violent behaviors or are at risk for engaging in such behaviors. Some programs include conflict resolution and team problem-solving. Other programs teach students social skills. The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, while developing and implementing a universal anti-aggression component for all elementary school children, also developed and implemented a separate social-skills and academic tutoring component that targets children who are the most at risk for engaging in aggressive behavior.
^Peek-Asa, C., Howard, J., Vargas, L., Kraus, J. F. (1997). "Incidence of non-fatal workplace assault injuries determined from employer's reports in California". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine39 (1): 44–50. doi:10.1097/00043764-199701000-00009. PMID9029430.
^Bandura, A. (1983). Psychological mechanisms of aggression. In R. G. Geen & E. I. Donnerstein (Eds.), Aggression: Theoretical and empirical reviews. New York: Academic. ISBN 0-12-278801-X
^ abAkers, R. L., Krohn, M. D., Lanza-Kaduce, L., Radosevich, M. (1979). "Social learning and deviant behavior: A specific test of a general theory". American Sociological Review44 (4): 635–655. doi:10.2307/2094592. PMID389120.
^Patterson, G. R., Forgatch, M. S., Yoerger, K. L., Stoolmiller, M. (1998). "Variables that initiate and maintain an early-onset trajectory for juvenile offending". Developmental Psychopathology10 (3): 531–547. doi:10.1017/S0954579498001734.
^ abLoeber, R., Farrington, D. P., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Lynam, Don (1998). "The development of male offending: Key findings from the first decade of the Pittsburgh Youth Study". Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review7 (4): 273–297. doi:10.1023/A:1013574903810.
^Moffitt, T. E. (1990). "Juvenile delinquency and attention deficit disorder: Boys' developmental trajectories from age 3 to age 15". Child Development61 (3): 893–910. doi:10.2307/1130972. JSTOR1130972. PMID2364762.
^ abcSampson, R., & Laub, J. (1993). Crime in the making: Pathways and turning points through life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-17604-9
^Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R. (2001). Effects of televised violence on aggression. In D. G. Singer & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of children and the media (pp. 223–254). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN 0-7619-1954-6
^Paik, H., Comstock, G. (1994). "The effects of television violence on antisocial behavior: A meta-analysis". Communication Research21 (4): 516–546. doi:10.1177/009365094021004004.
^Anderson, C. A., Bushman, B. J. (2001). "Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature". Psychological Science12 (5): 353–359. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00366. PMID11554666.
^Straus, M. A. (1991). "Discipline and deviance: Physical punishment of children and violence and other crime in adulthood". Social Problems38 (2): 133–154. doi:10.1525/sp.1991.38.2.03a00010.
^Gershoff, E. T. (2002a). "Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review". Psychological Bulletin128 (4): 539–579. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.539. PMID12081081.
^Gershoff, E. T. (2002b). "Corporal punishment, physical abuse, and the burden of proof: Reply to Baumrind, Larzelere, and Cowan (2002), Holden (2002), and Parke (2002)". Psychological Bulletin128 (4): 602–611. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.602.
^Patterson, G. R. (1995). Coercion as a basis for early age of onset for arrest. In J. McCord (Ed.), Coercion and punishment in long-term perspectives (pp. 81–105). New York: Cambridge University Press.
^ abDodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., Valente, E. (1995). "Social information processing patterns partially mediate the effect of early physical abuse on later conduct problems". Journal of Abnormal Psychology104 (4): 632–643. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.104.4.632. PMID8530766.
^Weiss, B., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., Pettit, G. S. (1992). "Some consequences of early harsh discipline: Child aggression and a maladaptive social information processing style". Child Development63 (6): 1321–1335. doi:10.2307/1131558. JSTOR1131558. PMID1446555.
^ abcHirschi, T.W. (1969). Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01487-1
^ abWiesner, M., Windle, M. (2004). "Assessing covariates of adolescent delinquency trajectories: A latent growth mixture modeling approach". Journal of Youth and Adolescence33 (5): 431–442. doi:10.1023/B:JOYO.0000037635.06937.13.
^ abCasteel, C., Peek-Asa, C., Limbos, M.A. (2007). "Predictors of nonfatal assault injury to public school teachers in Los Angeles City". American Journal of Industrial Medicine50 (12): 932–939. doi:10.1002/ajim.20520. PMID17979131.
^Guerra, N. G., Huesmann, L. R., Spindler, A. (2003). "Community violence exposure, social cognition, and aggression among urban elementary school children". Child Development74 (5): 1561–1576. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00623. PMID14552414.
^ abcSchonfeld, I.S. (2006). School violence. In E.K. Kelloway, J. Barling, & J.J. Hurrell, Jr. (Eds). Handbook of workplace violence (pp. 169–229). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
^Office of the New York State Comptroller. (2006). Reporting of violent and disruptive incidents by public schools (Rep. No. 2005-S-38). Albany: Author.
^California Legislative Analyst Office. (2009). Review of school crime reporting. Sacramento: Author.
^Brown, J., Munn, P. (2008). "School violence as a social problem: Charting the rise of the problem and the emerging specialist field". International Studies in Sociology of Education18 (3–4): 219–230. doi:10.1080/09620210802492807.
^Howard, K. A., Flora, J., Griffin, M. (1999). "Violence-prevention programs in schools: State of the science and implications for future research". Applied & Preventive Psychology8 (3): 197–215. doi:10.1016/S0962-1849(05)80077-0.
^Scheckner, S., Rollin, S. A., Kaiser-Ulrey, Cheryl, Wagner, R. (2002). "School Violence in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of current interventions". Journal of School Violence1 (2): 5–32. doi:10.1300/J202v01n02_02.
^Dolan, L. J., Kellam, S. G., Brown, C. H., Werthamer-Larsson, L., Rebok, G. W., Mayer, L. W. et al. (1993). "The short-term impact of two classroom-based preventive interventions on aggressive and shy behaviors and poor achievement". Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology14 (3): 317–345. doi:10.1016/0193-3973(93)90013-L.
^Embry, D. D. (2002). "The Good Behavior Game: A best practice candidate as a universal behavioral vaccine". Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review5 (4): 273–296. doi:10.1023/A:1020977107086. PMID12495270.
^Grossman, D. C., Neckerman, H. J., Koepsell, T. D., Liu, P. Y., Asher, K. N., Beland, K., Frey, K, Rivara, FP (1997). "Effectiveness of a violence prevention curriculum among children in elementary school: A randomized controlled trial". Journal of the American Medical Association277 (20): 1605–1611. doi:10.1001/jama.277.20.1605. PMID9168290.
^Olweus, D. (1991). Bully/victim problems among schoolchildren: Basic facts and effects of a school-based intervention. In D. Pepler & K. Rubin (Eds.), The development and treatment of childhood aggression (pp. 411–448). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
^Olweus, D. (1994). "Annotation: Bullying at school: Basic facts and effects of a school-based intervention program". Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines35 (7): 1171–1190. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1994.tb01229.x. PMID7806605.
^Olweus, D. (1999). The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective. In P. K. Smith, J. Junger-Taqs, D. Olweus, R. Catalano, & P. Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective (pp. 7–27). New York: Plenum.
^Cornell, Dewey; Allen, Korrie (2011). "Development, Evaluation, and Future Directions of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines". Journal of School Violence10: 88–106. doi:10.1080/15388220.2010.519432.
^Webster-Stratton, C. (1998). "Preventing conduct problems in Head Start children: Strengthening parenting competencies". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology66 (5): 715–730. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.66.5.715. PMID9803690.
^Tremblay, R. E., Pagani-Kurtz, L., Mâsse, L. C., Vitaro, F., Pihl, R. O. (1995). "A bimodal preventive intervention for disruptive kindergarten boys: Its impact through mid-adolescence". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology63 (4): 560–568. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.63.4.560. PMID7673533.
^Olds, D., Henderson, C. R. Jr., Cole, R., Eckenrode, J., Kitzman, H., Luckey, D., Pettitt, L, Sidora, K et al. (1998). "Long-term effects of nurse home visitation on children's criminal and antisocial behavior: 15-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial". Journal of the American Medical Association280 (14): 1238–1244. doi:10.1001/jama.280.14.1238. PMID9786373.