In The Know Zone

school violence reality

Why Perception and Reality Don't Match

A number of factors are at work in creating this disconnect between the reality and perception of school safety:

  • School shootings. The spate of school shootings in communities like Littleton, CO, West Paducah, KY, Jonesboro, AR and Santee, CA, capture and hold the attention of the media, constantly reminding the public of the events.  There are at least 15 books in print on the Columbine High school massacre five years after the event. [5] Still, as terrible and tragic as these events are, they are very rare.  There have been only 38 such incidents worldwide since 1996, of which 28 occurred in the United States.  Shootings in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996 and Erfurt, Germany, in 2002 approached the Columbine tragedy in the number of dead and wounded. [6]
  • Intensified school security measures. Some educators and students complain that high-visibility security measures, like metal detectors, book bag checks, security cameras andsecurity/police officer patrols may make some students feel less safe by constantly calling attention to the issue of security. [7]
  • Bullying. What was once considered an unpleasant but “normal” part of growing up is now recognized as a serious problem, with long-term negative consequences for both victim and bully. Statsitics on the percentage of students affected by bullying vary markedly, ranging from 8 percent [8] to 80 percent. [9] but the largest U.S. study to date found that 30 percent of students have been victims, bullies or both. [10]
  • Gangs and drugs. About 20 percent of U.S. students report the presence of street gangs in their schoolswith low-income urban areas reporting the highest incidence. [11] And the schools in which students say they have the easiest access to drugs are also those most likely to harbor gangs. [12] Because of their concentration in large urban schools, Hispanic and Black students were more likely than white students to report the presence of street gangs in their schools—32 and 29 percent respectively, vs. 16 percent. [13]

[5] Results of a search of book list on subject “Columbine High School shootings”, 4 August 2004

[6] Infoplease, A Time Line of Recent Worldwide School Shootings, available at, accessed  16 August 2004

[7] Horn, D; Bruised Inside: What Our Children Say About Youth Violence, What Causes It, and What We Need to Do About It.; p. 45;  National Association of Attorneys General, 2000, available at; Accessed  20 July 2004

[8] Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2003, Sect. 12, pp. 16-17

[9] Espelage, D, interview in Bullying is not limited to unpopular loners, say researchers,, American Psychological Association news release, August 20, 1999, available at;  Accessed 2 August 2004

[10] Nansel, T; Overpeck, N; et. al., Bullying Behaviors Among U.S. Youth in, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),  Vol. 285, No. 16, April 25, 2001, available at;  accessed 3 August 2004

[11] Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2003, Sect. 15, pp. 42-43

[12] Howell, J; and Lynch, J; Youth Gangs in Schools; in Juvenile Justice Bulletin, August, 2000, published by  the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), available at; accessed 7 August 2004

[13] Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2003, Sect. 15, p. 42



In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package