There is more to school violence than initially meets the eye. No single factor causes school violence on its own, and there is not a clear singular effect that results from violence.
Potential Causes of School Violence
You've seen school violence on television news broadcasts; large tragedies like the recent Stoneman Douglas shooting are quite difficult to forget. However, school violence can also encompass bullying and seemingly insignificant behaviors that add up to teens feeling unsafe at school. School violence is a dangerous issue because it can be difficult to highlight exactly what causes it.
Media and Entertainment
Many have tried to blame violent video games that children play, music with suggestive and sensitive lyrics, and movies desensitizing children to violence. However, there is little evidence to prove these sources of entertainment have long-term impacts leading to school violence. Some argue media content is not the direct cause, but the lack of adult monitoring and conversation about violent media could be a contributing factor.
In a world with so many different people like varying races, sexual orientations, belief systems, and nationalities, it can be difficult to feel like you fit in. It can be harder to find your place if everyone around you makes fun of you for the qualities that make you different. This intolerance, discrimination, or bullying that many face may contribute to school violence. Although fewer than one in ten bullied students head out on a shooting spree, about half of school shooters show evidence of being bullied and about half bully others. Critics of this argument highlight that every teen faces intolerance on some level and that teens who "break" must be experiencing something different.
Access to Weapons
Today's teens are exposed to weapons, particularly guns, in an entirely different way versus previous generations. The U.S. experiences significantly more gun violence and houses more civilian gun owners when compared to other developed countries despite not having higher overall crime rates. Only about half the population believes the government should control gun ownership. This debate about gun rights and legislation is present in daily media and politics for kids to see and hear.
Mental Health Concerns
Roughly half of all adolescents in the U.S. have some type of mental disorder. Of these kids, about half suffer from severe mental health impairment. Psychological disorders and mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety, have been on the rise for decades. While these complex issues can contribute to violent behavior, they aren't a given in school violence perpetrators. The FBI's School Shooter Threat Assessment suggests a profile of a school shooter doesn't exist because each scenario features a unique set of circumstances.
Effects of School Violence
A little more than 1 out of seven of all school-age children have been the victims of a physical assault at school. Some of the most damaging effects of school violence are the frequency of occurrence, which can cause fear and the loss of innocent lives. However, the impact of school violence is even less understood than the causes because research on this topic tends to focus on perpetrators and prevention.
Detracts From Education
Teachers are not only victims of school violence on some occasions, but they are tasked with being on the lookout for troubled students and taking great measures to connect on a personal level with students. This heightened attention to school safety is unfortunately necessary, but it indicates a shifting perspective in American viewpoints of school.
Decreases Academic Performance
Research shows exposure to an incidence of violence contributes to lower test scores, but it doesn't necessarily impact grades because homework isn't affected. Part of this can be explained by the finding sleep disruption from the incident could be the culprit. Kids who are distracted and getting poor sleep aren't able to concentrate on major educational tasks like testing.
Creates Mental Health Concerns
After an incidence of violence, many students end up feeling fearful of other students or of going to school. These fears can lead to more serious conditions like depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the ability to form secure attachments. Some of these issues may not present for days, weeks, or even years after exposure to a traumatic event.
Prevention Is Key
No one will ever know the exact reason as to what causes more extreme cases of school violence. However, no matter the expert, one thing everyone can agree on is that violence in schools needs to stop. Rather than focusing on what is behind violence in schools or what can happen as a result of it, everyone needs to become focused on preventing school violence.