Home > Uncategorized > Data Show Schools are Safer Than Ever. Are We Overreacting to Shootings? Are Kids Rebelling to Invasion of Privacy?

Data Show Schools are Safer Than Ever. Are We Overreacting to Shootings? Are Kids Rebelling to Invasion of Privacy?

March 29, 2018

Today’s edition of Politico’s Morning Edition featured this story on school safety:

CRIME ON THE DECLINE IN NATION’S SCHOOLS: New federal data out this morning shows crime in public schools has actually dropped, even as concerns over school safety have spiked following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The data from the National Center for Education Statistics is the most up-to-date snapshot of crime in the nation’s schools since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and sparked a national debate about school safety.

The report touches on a slew of issues – including security measures on campuses, training for teachers and discipline policies – likely to be central to discussions by the Trump administration’s school safety commission, which began meeting this week (more on that below). We have the full story, but here are the highlights:

Just 3 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being the victim of a crime at school during the 2015-16 school year, the most recent period for which data is available – a big drop from the 10 percent of students who said they were the victim of a crime two decades before.

Public schools have dramatically beefed up security measures: Almost 60 percent of schools had campus security during the 2015-16 school year – up from 42 percent a decade before. The percentage of schools using security cameras, meanwhile, jumped from 19 percent in 1999-2000 to 81 percent in 2015-16. The percentage of public schools that controlled access to school buildings rose from 75 percent to 94 percent during the same period.

Nearly all public schools had a plan in place for potential school shootings. Ninety-two percent had such plans, up from 79 percent in 2003.

Almost half of all schools trained teachers on recognizing early warning signs of student violent behavior, even though most schools – about 76 percent – provided training for classroom teachers on recognizing physical, social and verbal bullying behaviors. Just 30 percent provided training on recognizing signs of students using or abusing drugs or alcohol.

The percentage of schools reporting crimes to police reached its lowest point since at least 1999 during the 2015-16 school year, with 47 percent of schools reporting one or more crimes to the police. During the same school year, 37 percent of public schools took at least one serious disciplinary action – including out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 days or more, student removals with no services for the remainder of the school year and transfers to specialized schools.

 1999 is a sensible baseline year, for that is the year two disaffected students entered Columbine High School with high powered automatic guns and shot several of their classmates. And since then virtually every school in America (94%) has limited access to their buildings, devised plans to implement should a school shooting occur  (92%), and almost no students (3%) were crime victims. 60% of the schools now have security guards of some form, and 79% have cameras, a four-fold increase since 1999.

All of this data on school safety leads to two questions:

  1. What additional action can schools take to become hard targets?  If only 40% do NOT have security guards, only 6% leave their buildings un-secured, and only 21% lack surveillance cameras, what more does the public want or expect? Should there be more guards? Should the guards be armed? Should there be more cameras installed? Should the schools have razor wire fences?
  2. Is it possible that the students are implicitly protesting their loss of privacy? Given the close supervision in a contained environment, maybe the students are seeking spaciousness… freedom from being on camera while they in a locked fishbowl patrolled by security guards.

Before we spend another dollar creating “hard targets” we should examine the cold, contained environment we’ve created for the children in our country.

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