School violence and crime are problems in many cities across the U.S., and while it’s believed violence is decreasing, many schools fail to report incidents. This means the data on school crime is somewhat unreliable, and unfortunately incidents involving violence are often downplayed. In Michigan, violence and crime in schools seems especially problematic, particularly in high-crime areas such as Detroit, Benton Harbor, and Flint.
While violence and crime occur in middle schools and high schools, colleges and universities have become top stories in the news recently as it seems sexual assaults become more common (or at least more are being reported). In 2015, MSU (Michigan State University) was ranked the most dangerous campus in the country by crimewatchdaily.com, taking data from 2013. MSU ranked fourth in per capita crime rates in the country.
School shootings and bullying in schools are two other highly visible topics that have been in the news over the past several years. The fact is, while we hear about sexual assaults, shootings, and bullying on a somewhat regular basis, other types of crime go on in our schools including physical violence, bomb threats, larceny, acts of vandalism, illegal drug use, even drug overdose on school property. Young people have even attempted suicide, a fact that should be very concerning for all of us.
Violence & Crime – Effects of Trauma on Students
Whether they’re five years old or 17, kids often experience traumatic events that leave a lasting impact. Violence or crimes that occur in schools naturally incite fear in children and teens, who may feel a threat of physical harm or actually become a victim of physical harm. It’s easy to understand how a traumatic event can impact students’ mental health and development as well, as the concern for safety is one that lingers on long after the event. Fear, sadness, even feelings of guilt about what they could or should have done are common.
The effects on children and teens differ depending on their age. For instance, elementary age children often experience headaches and stomach aches, or even begin exhibiting anger or aggression. School performance can decline, as concentration and attention levels often change when children are preoccupied with a traumatic event that occurred. With high school age teens, the effects may include what were once good kids becoming self-destructive or engaging in reckless behaviors. Some even express their fantasies of getting revenge against the person(s) involved in the violence or crime that occurred. Relationships with their peers, teachers, and even parents and siblings may change. Not only may behavior change, but attendance and performance as well.
Violence and crime have taken their toll on Michigan education, not only for students but teachers and parents as well. It’s understandable that when a shooting, physical assault, or other crime occurs, the entire dynamic changes. Students become afraid, and worry if it could happen again; teachers no doubt worry as well. Traumatic events no doubt have a negative impact on the ability to learn for kids of all ages.
Our schools were once a “safe haven,” a place where children could go to learn and become educated in a safe environment; parents didn’t have to worry about whether it was safe to send their children off to school. Today, things are much different. Unfortunately, schools have become a place that many children and teens, as well as school staff, fear. What can we do to drastically reduce or eliminate the violence and crime that go on in our education system?