Though US schools are relatively safe, the issue of school violence and safety has been a significant concern, especially in the wake of episodes of extreme violence such as the Columbine High School incident in 1999 and the Virginia Tech incident in 2007. The online safety of youth has also gained increasing attention recently. “Cyber-bullying” was a factor in the suicide death of a local St. Charles County 8th grader in 2006, a story that was covered nationally, and which solidified the severity of online risks for young children and teens.
Incidences of school violence, as highlighted by the media, tend to involve the threat of severe physical harm. While physical safety is of great concern to parents and school personnel, current institutional practice regarding school violence and safety also focuses on the more insidious and chronic forms of psychological harm, and include bullying, peer pressure, and negative online activity and social media participation. A lack of respect among students and peers can undermine learning and effect student achievement.
A student’s own behaviors can undermine his or her health and safety, as well. Nationally, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey collects data on student behavior that can have deleterious effects on their safety, including drug and alcohol use, risky sexual practices, and reckless behavior.
Missouri schools are required by state statute to have a violence prevention program. As a part of the Missouri School Improvement Program, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has details on their Violence Prevention and Training Requirementsavailable online. The document Nurturing Social Responsibility: Missouri Violence Prevention Curriculum Framework outlines the policy.
Data and Statistics
Nationally, several agencies and websites collect data on school violence.
- Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Indicators of School Crime and Safety. IES National Center of Education Statistics.
- School-Associated Violent Death Study. CDC.
State and local data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey is available online.
- Missouri: MO Dept. of Mental Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Missouri Student Survey. Data are available in two forms, 1) an annual report (PDF) and 2) online database.
- Illinois: Child Health Data Lab.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education publishes data on discipline incidents on its website under School Statistics. To access data, select the district, and click on Discipline Incidents, under Educational Performance Data. The report outlines the type of offense, including “violent acts,” and “weapons,” and notes the type and length of suspension.