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School Violence

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School Violence-Finding Solutions

December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, a freshman in West Paducah, Kentucky opened fire on his classmates, killing three and wounding five. One year later, on March 5, 1998, Mitchell Woodward shot and killed five classmates and wounded eleven in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Just one year after that, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold committed the most heinous act of school violence in United States history in Littleton, Colorado. There, in Columbine High school, Harris and Kleibold killed twelve students, a teacher and later took their own lives. Random acts of school violence seemed to spread across the nation undetected, and protecting no one.

These events occurred only a few years ago, and it is important for college students to recognize the issue of school violence as problem that must not go unnoticed. While for the most part, college campuses are isolated from the incidents of violence that engulf many high schools and middle schools, it is possible that college students could be indirectly affected by school tragedies. For example, one may have a friend whose sister was in a shooting, or a cousin whose school was on lock down. Furthermore, there may come a day when one's own child will be at school desperately hiding from another angry classmate. For these reasons, it is important to address school violence as a significant problem and instituted methods of prevention.

Following the shootings in West Paducah, Kentucky, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Littleton, Colorado, many people began searching for similarities between all incidents. Among these similarities were certain characteristics possessed by the shooters. Michael Carneal, the shooter in West Paducah was "fed up with school, parents not paying attention and nobody caring about him," according to his defense psychologist Dewey Cornell. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, Mitchell Woodward was described as angry, and had a long list of past incidents of trouble. Later, in Littleton Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold were also social outcasts, who were constantly teased and therefore very angry and filled with rage. These common characteristics shared between shooters have had many educators and lawmakers to profile potentially violent students. Many educators have used a checklist provided by the National School Safety Center, which consists of characteristics include, displaying antisocial behavior, having history of bullying, or being bullied, and preferring read or watch material containing violence. In many cases, students possessing these traits have been suspended, and forced to attend personality changing counseling sessions. Is this truly a good solution in preventing school violence? Many people have disagreed. So what are the alternatives? Alternatives to profiling can be divided up into three approaches including the educator's approach, the parental approach, and the legislative approach.

The educator's approach to preventing school violence is aimed at using school personnel as positive way to combat school violence, including paring students with community involvement and reducing school sizes. First, many educators see families and communities as the "root" cause of violence in schools. The belief is that increasing school involvement with communities may decrease school violence. Their main purpose is to let students know that within the community in which they learn, there are people who care about them, and want to help them with any problems they may have. In New York City, community alliances within schools demonstrate a strong local commitment to, "the formation of partnerships among a community based organization, and a nonprofit organization with a demonstrated commitment to expertise in developing education programs or providing educational services to students." The city had also promoted, "a local law enforcement agency or any combination thereof and a high level of youth participation in such projects or activities." Likewise, in 1999, at Brandon High School in New York, the town's people of the city of Brandon formed a support group for students made up of volunteers, and many people who had been affected by school violence in the past. The group even held a meeting, which was named, the Community Town Meeting to Re-Invent in Our Youth. Among the topics discussed were youth and creating supportive services for youth during and after school. The project coordinator expressed how great it was to see that, "people could come together in a joint effort to rid our schools of violence."

The second argument that educators make is that schools need to be smaller in order for the threat of school violence to dwindle. James Garvarino, director of the Family Life Development Center and professor of human development a t Cornell University stated, "If I could do one single thing to prevent violence, it would be to ensure that teenagers are not in a high school bigger than four to five hundred students, if you want safe schools, get schooling down to size." According to the 1999 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, schools over one thousand students are eight times more likely to report violence incidents than schools with three hundred or less students. In this article, "How smaller Schools Prevent School Violence," Mitchell Kionsky reports the success that one school in Rhode Island has had in having low enrollment. At Perspectives High School in Providence, Rhode Island, the main purpose of having smaller schools is to increase the visibility of each student. With an enrollment of less that four hundred, teachers are responsible for fourteen students, which allows teachers to know their students better. As a result, the school has experienced one-eighteenth the rate of suspension regarding violence as other schools in Providence. Both involving communities and cutting school size down are much more positive alternatives to profiling in the attempt to prevent school violence, and seems to be working.

Those seeking the parental approach believe parents should practice positive parenting techniques and need to be more involved in the lives of their children. According to Carolyn Pereia from the Educational Resource Information Center, parents

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