by Nat Friedman
Student violence on college and high school campuses isn’t new. Violence has occurred in nearly every environment, educational or otherwise, since the dawn of time. Arguably violence on campuses seems to be more prevalent today than in the past but it might not be the case.
Media coverage of student violence on campuses receives a lot of attention these days. It’s become somewhat fashionable for legislators to begin writing new laws designed to prevent or punish campus violence after a particularly notable occurrence. News commentators feel the need to discuss gritty details that would never have been given air time or space in the newspaper 20 years ago. Many of the incidents are treated like they’re the crime of the century. As tragic as student violence may be, most physical assaults that occur on high school and college campuses aren’t fatal and don’t cause serious injury or death. The hook of the story is that a student was the perpetrator.
It’s notable that violence on the campus is addressed in many ways today. Law enforcement has gotten on the band wagon with efforts to station officers inside of schools with violent histories. Officers throughout the country are now trained in how to respond aggressively to “active shooter” situations designed to save lives and stop the shooter. The rationale for this training is a good one and it has many law enforcement applications outside of school campuses. Officers arriving on the scene no longer wait for the S.W.A.T. team. They group into teams capable of providing a lot of firepower and immediately move to the sound of the shooting. When the team hits the hallway the time for negotiations is over.
Incidents of student violence are a fact. Are campuses somehow to blame? What causes the violent behavior of students involved in these incidents?
Psychiatrists, law enforcement, and a host of others have varying opinions as to the causes of violence. However, the fact remains that many of these students, if not most, have a background of violence, emotional instability, or mental illness long before they arrived on campus.
There are often plenty of warning signs that violence is brewing before the shooting starts. These include a solitary lifestyle, threats, observable mental illness, and aggressive behavior.
Is campus violence preventable? How? At what cost?
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