School crime, ranging from light bullying to mass murder, has been on the rise in the United States.1 Examination of school demographics has suggested that gangs have increased from 15% to 28% in recent years.2 However, psychologists have observed that gang involvement may not be the only reason for increased in-school criminal activity. This document will examine other reasons why school crime seems to be on the rise.
Our school children are indeed living in the electronic age, a time not just of computers, but a time when social media is easily available. These include software packages such as Facebook and Twitter.3 These programs attach children of all ages to each other. Originally designed as a method to enhance social conversation they have become increasingly useful to some children as a means to harass and bully others. Because children like to be part of a group and are often too immature to simply walk away from potentially dangerous sources, they are urged to join into the fun—except the fun often turns to violence and even death. A case in point occurred just last week in Florida where a 12 year old girl committed suicide because she was being bullied over social media by two others who she thought to be her friends.4
There are other problems in the United States besides computer media. Increases in violent crimes have led to new gun laws. New gun legislation in 43 states now permits the carrying of concealed weapons by non-law enforcement personnel. 5 This makes guns readily available to many citizens and often allows unsupervised weapons to be lying around in one’s home. According to a recent poll taken by Time Magazine, 78% of today’s television shows portray violence.6 According to the same poll, 62% of television watchers comprise children under the age of 18 while the remainder (less than half the viewers) are adults.7 Thus, more than half of viewers watching television are people under the age of 18 (school children) and 78% of the time they are viewing shows that not only condone gun use but suggest that gun use is a better method to finding a solution to problems than is mediation.
In trying economic times, such as the United States has been experiencing for almost a decade, politicians have tried to reduce spending, keeping available resources to where they think the limited funds will do the most good.8 At the same time parent groups, often supported by school psychologists, are not supportive of providing full time police protection in public schools. To deter students from entering the school building with weapons, when school begins in the morning school officials sometimes use portable wands or have children walk through metal detection booths similar to those used in airports and public buildings. However, because these security units are only used in the morning, a student arriving to school late can avoid detection if he is bringing in a weapon. Studies have also observed that some students may hide weapons outside of school buildings, retrieving them later when they are allowed out of the building for recess or for an outdoor physical education class. 9
The term, latch-key child, grew out of the decade of the 1970s when more and more households suddenly found both parents working outside the home. In early decades of the 20th century one parent, usually the mother, stayed at home doing housework, planning meals, and supervising the activities of her children when they arrived home from school. In the latter part of the 20th century two things occurred which caused a cessation of one parent remaining at home: The U.S. economy became so inflated that to maintain current lifestyles, both parents had to seek work outside the home. Second, there was a change in U.S. production. Jobs which required brawn were given to other countries where labor demanded only pennies on the dollar and the U.S. economy shifted to the Information Age (computers). 10 With this shift, many more jobs became available for both men and women.
With both parents gone when children returned from school, these children were forced to assume adult roles. In addition to their schoolwork they assumed at least some of the chores around the house which were previously done for them. In addition, when multiple siblings lived in the same home older children assumed parental skills. Without parental supervision these same children often don’t do their homework, preferring instead to build same-age relationships among other children who form gangs designed to terrorize other children, adults, and even whole communities. Often these gangs are led by still older individuals, many of them having reached adulthood. 11 They are involved in delinquency issues, robbery, murder, and the sale of illegal drugs. As initiation rituals these new and younger gang members are often urged to commit violent crimes in order to be considered a part of the gang.
Involvement of School Professionals
School counselors, working with professional law enforcement personnel are being trained to recognize student behaviors that are adverse to solid instruction. Counselors and law enforcement personnel have provided some training to regular classroom teachers and school administrators in an effort to recognize potentially dangerous behaviors among students. School leaders have also enacted zero-tolerance rules. Weapons brought to school will result in automatic student exclusion. Unfortunately, bullying programs, at least those using social medium, can’t be well-monitored and often lead to disastrous consequences. In some schools mediation programs for unruly youth have been established. However, school officials often comment that these programs interfere with allotted times for academics which are now monitored in most states.12
After-school enrichment and supervised playtime has been enacted in some schools. These programs have been beneficial in providing supervision in-school instead of at home, in cases where both parents are employed outside of the home.13 They have helped to reduce gang activity. However, they often do little to curb what a child watches on television. Likewise, they do little to curb bullying, especially cyber-bullying.
Even though schools are typically dealing with juveniles, when they become offenders, society recognizes them not as students, but as criminals. School crime is especially horrendous because when parents send their children to school, they generally assume the child to be in a safe harbor. When crime affects students all of our society is affected. Researchers suggest that school crime has increased because of changes in our daily family living.14 More often than not both parents are employed outside of the home. Without parental supervision children often find themselves embroiled in watching television where the majority of programming suggests the use of weapons to solve problems. Those children who play outside of the home are often influenced by gang activities in their own community.
Because average citizens feel that police departments are spread too thin for societal protection, numerous states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Too often, parents are careless about locking up their weapons, making them available to their children, who remove the weapons from home and carry them to school thinking they will better able to protect themselves.
Finally, digital media has changed over the last few years. Children have Facebook and Twitter accounts and can engage in cyber-bullying without having to personally confront their adversaries.
- S. Johnson, J. Burke, and A. Gielsen. “Prioritizing the School environment in School Violence Prevention.” Journal of School Health 81 (2011): 331-340.
- Conduct Problems, Prevention Research Group. “Initial Impact of the Fast Track Prevention Trial for Conduct problems: Classroom Effects.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67, 5 (2007): 648-657.
- B. Meadows, “The WEB: The Bully’s New Playground.” People Magazine, Volume 63, Issue 10 (March 14, 2005).
- K. Connolly and A. Hernandez. “Mom of Cyber Bullying Suicide Suspect Seen Attacking Kids on Facebook, Deputies Say.” The Orlando Sentinel, page 1 (October 20, 2013).
- S. Hollander. “Guns Worn in Open Legal, But Alarm Virginia State Police.” The Washington Post, page 1 (March 12, 2010).
- Time Magazine. Poll Concerning Kinds of Programs Children Watch at Home. Volume 24, Issue 10: 38-42 (March 20, 2005).
- Ibid. pp. 17-22.
- Congressional Budget Office. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2013-2-23. Federal Printing Office, February 5, 2013. Washington, DC.
- Philly.Com. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/dncrime/Student-Sneaking-Gun-In-School-Arrested.html. April 17, 2013.
- J. Kosner. “Living and Working in the New Economy.” Paper presented in the Open Economic Forum, May 25, 2011. The Open University, United Kingdom.
- J. Blasko. “Children and Gangs.” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. August 2011, No. 98
- J. Marshall, E. Stansbury, J. Jaworski, and A. Cannata. “Mentoring Program Policy and Procedure Manual.” (2005). Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence.
- National Crime Prevention Council. “McGruff the Crime Dog and Take A Bite Out of Crime programs. Author: 2013.
- P. Fagan, Ph.D., “The Real Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community, (2009), The Heritage Foundation
Blasko, J. “Children and Gangs.” New York: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, No. 98. August, 2011.
Congressional Budget Office. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2013-2023.” Washing, DC: Printing Office. February 5, 2013.
Conduct Problems, Prevention Research Group. “Initial Impact of the Fast Track Prevention Trial for Conduct Problems: Classroom effects. Journal of Consulting and Criminal Psychology (2007) 67, 5: 648-657.
Connolly, K. and Hernandez, A. “Mom of Cyber Bullying Suicide Suspect Seen Attacking Seen Attacking Kids on Facebook, Deputies Say.” Orlando, FL: The Orlando Sentinel, p. 1. October 20, 2013.
Fagan, P. (Ph.D.) The Real Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community. New York: The heritage Foundation, 2009.
Hollander, S. “Guns Worn in Open Legal, but Alarm Virginia State Police. Seattle, WA: The Washington Post, page 1. March 12, 2010.
Johnson, S., Burke, J., and Gielsen, A. “Prioritizing the School Environment in School Violence Prevention.” Journal of School Health 81 (2011): 331-340.
Kosner, J. (Ed.D.) “Living and Working in the New Economy.” Paper presented in the Open Economic Forum, May 25, 2011. United Kingdom: The Open University.
Marshall, J. Stansbury, E., Jaworski, J., and Canata, A.” Mentoring Program Policy and Procedure Manual.” New York: Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence, 2005.
Meadows, B. “The WEB: The Bully’s New Playground.” People Magazine, Volume 63, Issue March 14, 2005.
National Crime Prevention Council. “McGruff the Crime Dog and Take a Bite Out of Crime programs. Washington, DC: Author, 2013.
Philly.com http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/dncrime/Student-Sneaking-Gun-In-School-Arrested.html. April 17, 2013.
Time Magazine. “Poll Concerning Kinds of Television Programs Children Watch At-Home.” Volume 24, Issue 10: 38-42. (March 20, 2005).