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Thursday, September 29, 2011

School Disorganization is one Major Contributor to School Violence

Victimization theory identified individual characteristics associated with perceived vulnerability as the individual predictors of fear of crime. However, it is important to identify the difference in the vulnerability between crimes and peer victimization at school. School violence and bullying mostly occur within the same gender group and age group (Akiba, 2004; Owens, Slee, & Shute, 2001; Smith et al., 1999). In addition, the students with the highest risk of victimization at school have different characteristics from the individuals with the highest risk of crime victimization on the street (Gibson, et al., 2002; Kanan & Pruitt, 2002; Katz, et al., 2003; Smith et al.). Therefore, studies on bullying and school violence victimization needs to be further reviewed to identify individual predictors of fear of school violence.

Social disorganization theory and social integration theory are associated because empirical studies on crime rates have shown that a higher level of social disorganization, measured by poverty level, immigrant concentration, and residential mobility, predicts a lower level of social integration or collective efficacy (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Specifically, Sampson et al. (1997) found that the relationship between social disorganization and neighborhood violence was largely mediated by collective efficacy. This relationship may apply to the school settings. The schools characterized by disorganization—a lack of resources and high levels of teacher turnover and student mobility—may be less likely to develop collective efficacy, and a lower level of collective efficacy predicts a higher level of student fear of school violence.  

It is important to note, however, that unlike communities where collective efficacy is developed by an informal mechanism among residents to achieve public order, the collective efficacy at school can be formally developed through school administrators’ and teachers’ practices. Therefore, it is possible to develop collective efficacy in school environments characterized by poverty and urban location—the proxies of school disorganization. For this reason, the measures of school disorganization and school community were developed separately, and the relationship between these measures was examined before investigating how these factors predict student fear of school violence.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One in Ten Students View School as a Place of Violence

Ensuring a safe learning environment for every student at school is a major responsibility of educators, school administrators, and policy makers in our society. Although the statistics show that the number of violent crimes at school has declined since the early 1990s (DeVoe, Peter, Miller, Snyder, & Baum, 2004; DeVoe, Peter, Noonan, Snyder, & Baum, 2005; Dinkes, Cataldi, Kena, & Baum, 2006), students’ fear of school violence has not proportionally declined since the late 1980s (DeVoe et al., 2005; Lawrence & Mueller, 2003; Small & Terick, 2001). One out of ten 15-year-olds thinks of school as a place where someone will attack or harm them. Studies have shown that students who fear violence are most likely to bring a gun to school (Chandler, Chapman, Rand, & Taylor, 1998; Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000), which would further increase the level of fear among other students in the school environment. Student fear, therefore, is a policy issue that requires attention and a systematic investigation. Indeed, it is a global phenomenon that educators around the world have struggled with as a major barrier to effective student learning.

Students’ fear of being victimized by school violence affects their school attendance, learning motivation, and academic achievement (Bowen & Bowen, 1999; Juvonen, Nishina, & Graham, 2000; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005). Although criminologists have uncovered individual and community predictors of fear of crimes among adults, our knowledge base on school characteristics associated with students’ fear of school violence is still limited (Gainey & Seyfrit, 2001; Hale, 1996; May & Dunaway, 2000). Many U.S. studies identified that victims of bullying and peer harassment are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidality, and low self-esteem (Graham & Juvonen, 1998; Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007; Poteat & Espelage, 2007). Fear of school violence may be part of these characteristics of bullying victims. However, none of these studies has investigated what school characteristics predict the level of fear or anxiety among students.  

An investigation of individual characteristics of students who fear school violence provides useful information for school administrators to identify who needs to be assured a safe learning environment. Furthermore, an analysis of school factors associated with students’ fear will inform policy makers and administrators regarding which school characteristics need to be improved to create a safe learning environment for students. Although a series of school shootings reported by the media has heightened fear among the general public, and many studies have been conducted on school shootings (Burns & Crawford, 1999; Fox & Harding, 2005; Lawrence & Mueller, 2003; Newman, Fox, Harding, Mehta, & Roth, 2004; Webber, 2003), statistics show that school shootings are still rare incidents (DeVoe et al., 2005). However, the focus of students’ day-to-day fear caused by widespread behaviors at school such as bullying and physical violence needs to be explored.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Role of Teachers and School Administrators in School Violence

Ensuring a safe learning environment for every student at school is a major responsibility of educators, school administrators, and policy makers in our society. Students’ fear associated with school violence affects their school attendance, learning motivation, and academic achievement. Although predictors of adults’ fear of crimes have been studied extensively in the field of criminology, limited information has been produced related to school and teacher factors associated with students’ fear of school violence.
Research indicates that low achieving students report a higher level of fear of school violence than high achievers. In addition, classroom disorder and a lower level of school mean parental education level were associated with a higher level of fear. In addition issues related to a students’ sense of belonging to a school community and the level of student/teacher bonding tends to be associated with a lower level of fear. Low academic achievement and a weak sense of student belonging at school are the two strongest predictors of students’ fear.
Therefore, it seems reasonable that school administrators and teachers need to focus on developing a sense of school community and maintaining orderly and effective classroom environments. We must recognize that teachers play an important role in developing a close and trusting relationship with students, providing meaningful learning and social activities for students to strengthen their sense of belonging at school, and developing caring and effective classroom environments. School administrators should provide support to teachers and develop a school climate that promotes a sense of school community among students through involving students and their family members in important school decision-making processes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Students are Allowed Recess at School they Behave Better and Learn More

School children who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more, according to a large study of third-graders conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Romina Mariel Barros, M.D. The study, published in Pediatrics, suggests that a daily break of 15 minutes or more in the school day may play a role in improving learning, social development, and health in elementary school children. The study's principal investigator is Romina M. Barros, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Einstein. Dr. Barros looked at data on approximately 11,000 third-graders enrolled in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. The children, ages 8 to 9, were divided into two categories: those with no or minimal recess (less than 15 minutes a day) and those with more than 15 minutes a day. There were an equal number of boys and girls. The children's classroom behavior was assessed by their teachers using a questionnaire.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free, unstructured play is essential for keeping children healthy, and for helping them reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Unstructured play also helps kids manage stress and become resilient.

However, some studies indicate that children are getting less and less unstructured playtime, a trend exacerbated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. "Many schools responded to No Child Left Behind by reducing the time for recess, the creative arts, and physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics," says Dr. Barros.
A 2005 survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the 83 percent to 88 percent of children in public elementary schools have recess of some sort. But the number of recess sessions per day and the duration of the recess periods have been steadily declining. Since the 1970s, children have lost about 12 hours per week in free time, including a 25 percent decrease in play and a 50 percent decrease in unstructured outdoor activities, according to another study.

The present study shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially affected by this trend. "This is a serious concern," says Dr. Barros. "We know that many disadvantaged children are not free to roam their neighborhoods, even their own yards, unless they are with an adult. Recess may be the only opportunity for these kids to practice their social skills with other children."

"When we restructure our education system, we have to think about the important role of recess in childhood development," adds Dr. Barros. "Even if schools don't have the space, they could give students 15 minutes of indoor activity. All that they need is some unstructured time."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

25 Most Dangerous Cities

According to a study of FBI crime statistics by CQ Press, St. Louis, Mo. was the "most dangerous city in the U.S." in 2010, probably due to former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire's uncontrollable steroid-murder rages. Here's the top 25:

1. St. Louis, MO                                                                  
2. Camden, NJ
3. Detroit, MI
4. Flint, MI
5. Oakland, CA
6. Richmond, CA
7. Cleveland, OH
8. Compton, CA
9. Gary, IN
10. Birmingham, AL
11. Baltimore, MD
12. Memphis, TN
13. New Orleans, LA
14. Jackson, MS
15. Little Rock, AR
16. Baton Rouge, LA
17. Buffalo, NY
18. New Haven, CT
19. Hartford, CT
20. Dayton, OH
21. Kansas City, MO
22. Washington, DC
23. Newark, NJ
24. Cincinnati, OH
25. Atlanta, GA

New York City ended up at number 269; San Francisco at 130; Los Angeles proper at 158; and Chicago wasn't ranked because its "rape numbers were not available," which is just a bone-chilling phrase any way you cut it, huh? The "safest" city with more than 75,000 residents in 2010 was Colonie, N.Y., which has such a terrifically evocative name for a "safe" city that I sort of don't believe it exists.
A lot of the top 25 are pretty okay places! Even Camden has a pretty nice aquarium. I mean: Ranking cities based on their crime rates is a pretty depressing and frankly sort of irresponsible way to think about cities, and crime, and urban living, and so forth! But let's not let that stop us from making lists, which, as we all know, is the best thing about being human.