School Safety: Is It a Lost Cause?

Delta Winds cover 2001Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


School Safety: Is It a Lost Cause?

Jennifer Lewis

In 1998 a student in Fayetteville, Tennessee, shot another student in the parking lot three days before they were both to graduate. This incident began because the victim was dating the suspect's ex-girlfriend. Another student in Springfield, Oregon, who was expelled for bringing a gun to school, opened fire in a populated cafeteria the following day. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, four female students and a teacher were shot to death and ten others injured when a couple of students opened fire during a fire drill. The worst act of school violence occurred in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. Two students calling themselves "Trench Coat Mafia" held the school hostage and killed several students and teachers. They did not like certain social groups on campus, so they took to violence to act out their aggressions.

School should be thought of as a happy place to learn and interact with other students. Like many things in the world, the times are changing. Students are now beginning to view schools as some sort of punishment because of bullying and isolation. This sort of rejection can lead to violence. In today's society children are feeling less safe about attending school. Students are now wondering if it is possible to make it through the school day without becoming a victim of a senseless act of violence.

While attending school, I have felt unsafe. The first day of my sophomore year at Franklin High School ended with a fight in the parking lot that involved some sort of weapon that was smuggled onto school property by one of the students involved. The police were called out and guns were drawn. At that point I felt unsafe about being at that place at that time. I have witnessed fights, bullying, and other forms of rejection. Students bully less fortunate students, and "in" crowds make fun of others. Most of these occurences do not directly relate to me; however, they can still make someone feel unsafe.

Is there a way to prevent these senseless tragedies from occurring? Can students feel safe again about going to school? Several remedies are being proposed by the government, school administrators, teachers, communities and parents. School violence is being addressed everyday. Increased security at schools, early training for students, training for teachers and programs that are aimed at improving safety are just a few of the issues being examined.

Increasing the security on school campuses is one of the best ideas. A higher number of security guards increases the number of eyes watching out for the children. There is also an increased feeling of security among students when more guards are present. When I attended high school, there were security guards all over. We also had random searches of classrooms with trained police dogs to find concealed drugs or any other illegal possessions. I always thought of that as a good security measure. Getting the teachers, parents, administrators and any other adult present on campus to aid in monitoring the students is also a good security measure.

Training the students as early as elementary school or even sooner may decrease the chances of those students turning to violence to settle petty disputes with other students or faculty. Programs such as peer mediation, anger management, stress management and conflict resolution are all great programs that should be familiar to students. These programs can teach students how to handle their problems, thus decreasing the acts of violence.

Training teachers and parents is also an issue that we need to address. If teachers are able to detect potential problems among students, they can be the mediators and help to solve the problems in a peaceful manner. Programs of early detection for future teachers should be integrated into the curriculum during college. Giving the teachers the skills to recognize the problems early on can be very helpful in preventing needless fights. On the other end of the spectrum, the parents need to become more active in the situation. I'm sorry to say, but parenting skills have gone out the window in recent decades. If parents could monitor their children better, problems may not occur. I know my mother would kick my butt if I were playing with guns or creating problems at school over something as petty as a look, an ex-boyfriend or just because I did not like certain groups of people. I propose that during high school, students should be required to take parenting skills classes. Classes such as these would give future parents the basic skills needed to discipline and help their children. With every side accounted for, not only the students but also the teachers and administrators would benefit and feel safer. They would feel more secure in their jobs. Even parents would feel better about their children.

These are just a few examples of how we can make schools safer, more secure places to be. There are many great programs and policies out there. The only problem is getting them enforced. It would take the cooperation of all the groups I have mentioned, plus the cooperation of legislatures to get more effective policies into the schools. This is definitely not one of those things you can just wave a wand over, say "poof" and the problem is fixed. The road to eliminate violence in our schools is not going to be "a walk in the park." Even if violence in schools cannot be completely stopped, regulations can control it to some degree to reinsure the safety of students in America.