Solutions to School Violence

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Violence in schools has spread widely throughout the nation. This has caused many problems among students, families, faculty of schools, and residents of the areas. However, there are many possible ways we can stop all this violence in schools. Almost three-fourths of the United States teens are afraid of violent crime amongst their peers (Apfel 23). Violence in schools has become a big problem in todays society. With all the people being injured or killed in schools by guns and other weapons, more and more people are getting more weapons to bring in to schools. Nearly half of all males and one-third of all students including females said they could easily obtain a handgun if they wanted to (Glazer 14).

The cause of violence can be blamed on many things but 1 mainly. And that one thing is drugs and gangs. Now that more people are selling and buying drugs, people are making money to buy weapons. Gangs, since they came around violence have been increasing steadily. The spread of gangs and drugs has also been implicated in the increasing violence of school youths (Glazer 14).

Experts have also said that most violent conflicts among school-age children can be traced back to long- simmering disputes (Apfel 21). Carrying guns and other weapons around schools is becoming more and more popular all around the world. People think that carrying guns around schools with them will make them cool or fit in with other people like themselves. They're wrong. More and more people who are carrying guns around schools today are getting caught and having them taken away. Since schools have gotten metal detectors and scanners, they have cut down the rate of having handguns in schools by nearly 58%(Glazer 5). Security experts have reported that there is no evidence that a metal detector will solve the problem of violence in schools, even though it offers a highly visible symbol to the community (Apfel 22). Even if the schools with all the gun violence in their schools do put in metal detectors at the front entrances of schools, their are many ways kids can sneak in weapons to school.

In 1990 congress made it a felony to bring a gun within one thousand feet of any school under the "Gun-Free School Zones" provision of the 1990 crime prevention package. This law wont help very much because of the fact that students can sneak in weapons through bathroom windows, or an unguarded entrance during recess (Glazer 6).

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So there isn't really a safe and reliable way to keep guns away from schools.

Security has become a big part of schools today. More and more schools have been getting metal detectors installed. The N.Y. city public schools report that since the introduction to metal detectors in 1988, serious incidents have declined by 58% in schools with scanners and by 43% without them (Glazer 5). Every school should start putting in metal detectors and scanners if they want to cut down violence. Some schools districts that experimented with metal detectors for a short time found them a bit frustrating (Gordon 27).

It has become very easy to obtain a gun. A survey of Baltimore public-schools students showed that the four most prevalent places to get guns are street corners, friends, drug dealers, and thieves (Gordon 29). And kids all over the world are getting guns from all these places but nobody is doing anything about it. It is very easy for someone to obtain a handgun. All they have to do is go to one of these four places and buy one. Where do they get the money to buy these guns you ask, from selling drugs. If we could stop the selling of drugs just by maybe 20% or even 15%, there would be a whole less violence due to the lack of money. So nobody would be able to buy a weapon.

Teachers are in as much danger of being killed or attacked, as kids are school. The risk of a teacher being attacked by a student has doubled since 1956(Glazer 20). This is a lot considering that you don't hear about too many teacher attacks on the news but you do hear about teens being killed. Approximately 100 teachers have been assaulted annually in the past four school years (Glazer 8).

The big problem involving violence is how we can stop the violence from spreading and increasing. Not nearly as many teens would have guns if they didn't get the money from selling drugs (Gordon 30). So if we can stop the selling of drugs, less people will have money to buy guns and their will be less violence.

We can also blame our parents for violence. When parents buy a gun and put it away, their kid could get a hold of it and bring it to school and already you?re in trouble. This is why parents should lock away their weapons not just stick it in a draw or on the top shelf of a closet. Parents are responsible for the conduct and safety of their children and buy keeping a gun where they can get hold of it their putting them in danger (Glazer 29). Violence has caused many problems. Many people have been killed or seriously injured because of violence. What we should do to try and prevent violence in schools from increasing is teach our children young about this stuff and don't keep a weapon around the house unless it's necessary. And if you do keep a weapon in your house, keep it where it can't be found that easily.

For students attending a private school, school uniforms have long been a way of life. Most public schools, however, do not require their students to wear uniforms. That began to change in the 1990s as educators looked for ways to deal with a widely perceived crisis in education. Impressed by the successes found in private schools--the so-called "Catholic school effect" (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993, pp. 286-287)--educational reformers looked for practices that might be transferred to public school settings. Among the ideas they considered was the adoption of school uniforms. The idea seems to be catching on. Although schools adopting these policies have reported improved student behavior and academic achievement, critics question the effectiveness and even the legality of the practice.

The first large public school district to require school uniforms was the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Beginning in the fall of 1994 students from kindergarten through eighth grade were required to wear uniforms, a policy that affected approximately 60,000 students in seventy schools (Brunsma & Rocquemore, 1998). In a letter to the editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the LBUSD board president explained the board's reasons for adopting the policy:

Uniforms improve discipline, self-esteem and self-respect. They focus attention upon learning and away from such distractions as fashion competition and gang intimidation. Requiring uniforms enhances school security by permitting identification of non-students who try to enter the campus. Weapons have been concealed in jumpsuits, overcoats, and baggy gang clothing. (Polacheck, n.d.)

The uniform policy was widely heralded as a success. According to the superintendent of the school district, during the first year of the policy, suspensions dropped by 32%, school crime by 36%, fights by 51%, and vandalism by 18% (Cohn, 1996, p. 38). When the U.S. Department of Education (1996) produced a Manual on School Uniforms, it put the LBUSD at the top of its list of model policies and provided several additional statistics for the school district, including a 34% decrease in assault and battery offenses, a 50% decline in weapons offenses, and a 74% decline in sexual assaults.

Other schools adopting uniform policies have testified to positive results as well. Peter Caruso (1996, p. 84) reports that principals and teachers in schools in Chicago, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, and Virginia identify such improvements as an increased number of students on the honor roll and significant decreases in the number of discipline problems after the implementation of a uniform policy. Richard K. Murray (1997) provides more detailed data in his study of two middle schools in Charleston, South Carolina, concluding that school uniforms have a positive impact on school climate.
Proponents claim other advantages as well. Many say that school uniforms save money for parents, since uniforms often cost less than other clothing. For instance, Carl. A. Cohn, superintendent of the LBUSD, suggests that a parent can buy three entire uniforms for the cost of a single pair of designer jeans. Officials at South Shore Middle School in Seattle, Washington, estimate that clothing costs are as much as 80% lower for students wearing uniforms, and they believe that the economic benefits to parents are further enhanced by the durability of the clothing and the consistency of style from year to year (U.S. Department of Education, 1996).

Despite widespread support for uniform programs, not everyone has welcomed them. Some are skeptical of the claims that uniforms actually cause the improvements cited by proponents. David L. Brunsma and Kerry A. Rockquemore (1998) call attention to several other LBSUD programs that were implemented simultaneously with the uniform policy, including a reassessment of content standards, a million dollar grant to develop alternative pedagogical strategies, and the Focused Reporting Project. Compared to those efforts, requiring uniforms is a visible but relatively superficial change. Concerned that school administrators seem to focus exclusively on uniforms, Brunsma and Rockquemore suggest that attention to this simple change "renews an interest on the parts of parents and communities and provides possibilities for supporting additional types of organizational change" (p. 60). On the whole, however, they regard uniforms as symptomatic of a "quick-fix" mentality and do not appear optimistic about the likelihood of support for more substantial reforms that may be "costly and demand energy and a willingness to change on the part of school faculty and parents" (p. 60). Calling the widespread public discussions of uniforms a "diversion," Loren Siegel (1996) is still more outspoken on this point: "We need to be very cynical about political leaders who promote uniforms in the face of crumbling school buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and dwindling educational funds" (p. 39).

The other major objection to school uniforms is the concern that requiring a student to wear a school uniform violates that student's free speech rights. That is the position of such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (2000), which emphatically tells students that "school uniform policies do violate your First Amendment rights."

Court decisions concerning uniforms have been more complex. Although a number of lawsuits have addressed First Amendment rights in connection with restrictive dress codes, only a few have been filed about mandatory uniforms in public schools. The first ruling involving uniforms, a 1995 case from Maricopa County, Arizona, upheld the school's policy. On the basis of a 1988 Supreme Court decision that distinguished public schools from other open public forums, the judge found that, even though the mandatory uniform requirement did "regulate free expression," the reasons for that policy were "appropriate matters of concern to the School Board and that the policy itself [was] reasonable" (as cited in Paliokas, Futrell, & Rist, 1996, p. 33).

A more recent Louisiana case broadened the concern beyond First Amendment issues. After the Bossier Parish School Board mandated school uniforms for the1999-2000 school year, a group of forty parents sued the school board. In addition to claiming that this policy violated students' First Amendment rights to free speech, they argued that it failed to respect religious differences, created an undue financial burden that effectively excluded some students from the free education guaranteed by the state constitution, and violated the Fourteenth Amendment by denying students' freedom of choice.

The district court in which the case was tried ruled in favor of the school board, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld that decision. Although the decision issued by the latter court does not cite the Maricopa case, the line of reasoning concerning First Amendment rights is essentially the same. The decision issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledges that the First Amendment "applies to the students' choice of clothing" (Canady et al. v. Bossier, 2001, section IIA) but maintains that this First Amendment protection "is not absolute, especially in the public school setting" and that educators have "an essential role in regulating school affairs and establishing appropriate standards of conduct" (section IIB). Reviewing a variety of precedents involving restrictive dress codes, the court noted that the Bossier Parish regulations were not aimed at specific viewpoints and that the policy was "viewpoint-neutral on its face and as applied" (section IIC).

Concerning the claim that the uniform policy did not account for certain religious practices, the court did not base its decision on legal principles but dealt with the inadequacy of the evidence presented, noting that those bringing the charges "have not established that the uniform policy has interfered with their right to free exercise of religion" (Canady et al. v. Bossier, 2001, section IIC, note 7). This wording seems to leave open the possibility that a case might be made on this point, however. The claim that uniforms imposed an undue financial burden was similarly dismissed for lack of evidence, along with the comment that "it is hard to imagine how the purchase of uniforms consisting of a certain color of shirt and pants could be any more expensive than the normal cost of a student's school clothes" (section III). Finally, the court did not pursue the question of Fourteenth Amendment rights, stating that, in this particular case, those rights were covered by First Amendment rights, which had not been abridged (section III).

As these two court cases suggest, the legal question is not simple. Whereas both decisions clearly acknowledge that mandatory uniforms may violate First Amendment rights, the courts have not regarded those rights as absolute, particularly in public school settings. In addition, since a uniform policy dictates what all students must wear rather than prohibiting selected items of clothing, its aim does not appear to be to prevent the expression of any particular viewpoint. Without completely resolving the question, then, one can conclude at least that a mandatory uniform policy is more consistent with First Amendment rights than a restrictive dress code is.

Questions about the effectiveness of school uniforms are even more difficult to resolve. Most reports of improvements following the introduction of school uniforms quantify the changes, but they fail to examine whether the new policy is the real cause of the change. In addition, results are usually gathered at the first opportunity. Without any long-range data, it is impossible to know how much to attribute to the policy itself and how much to the attention that would come with the implementation of any new policy. Certainly, the other new policies in the LBUSD schools should be taken into account in assessing the changes that occurred there. Until more concrete information is available, the debate over school uniforms should not end.

Work Cited

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. (2000). Know your rights: A manual for public school students in Pennsylvania. Retrieved February 11, 2002, from http://www.aclupa.org/kyr/KYR_manual-2000.pdf

Apfel, Ira. "Teen Violence: Real or Imagined?" American Demographics (June, 1995). 22-23.
Brunsma, D. L., & Rockquemore, K. A. (1998). Effects of student uniforms on attendance, behavior problems, substance use, and academic achievement. Journal of Research in Education, 92, 53-62.

Bryk, A., Lee, V., & Holland, P. (1993). Catholic schools and the common good. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Canady et al. v. Bossier Parish School Board, No. 99-31318 (5th Cir. January 23, 2001). Retrieved February 11, 2002, from http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/99/
99-31318-cv0.htm

Caruso, P. (1996, September). Individuality vs. conformity: The issue behind school uniforms. NAASP Bulletin, 80(581), 83-88.

Cohn, C. A. (1996, September/October). Should students wear uniforms? Yes. Learning, 25(2), 38.

Glazer, Sarah. "Violence In Schools." CQ Researcher (Sept. 11,1992): 787- 818. Ed. Elanor Goldstein. Vol. 14. Boca Raton: Sirs, 1992. Art. 78.

Murray, R. J. (1997, December). The impact of school uniforms on school climate. NAASP Bulletin, 81(592), 106-112.

National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2000). School uniforms: How and why. Principal Online. Retrieved February 16, 2002, from http://www.naesp.org/misc/uniforms.htm

Polacheck, K. (n.d.). Uniforms help solve many school problems [Letter to the editor]. Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved February 12, 2002, from http://www.lbusd.k12.ca.us/
Siegel, L. (1996, September/October). Should students wear uniforms? No. Learning, 25(2), 39.

U.S. Department of Education. (1996, February 29). Manual on school uniforms. Retrieved January 30, 2002, from http://www.ed.gov/updates/uniforms.html

Witkin, Gordon. "Kids Who Kill." U.S. News and World Report (April 8,1991): 26-35. Ed. Elanor Goldstein. Vol. 4. Boca Raton: Sirs, 1991. Art. 5.


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