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1998 ANNUAL REPORT ON SCHOOL SAFETY
Late last year, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released the first Annual Report on School Safety — a project that addressed national concerns prompted by a series of school shootings. “Last year was a particularly horrific year. It gave many the perception that all schools were rife with crime and violence, that most kids were carrying firearms, most kids were using alcohol and drugs, most schools had gangs, and that violence was really spiraling out of control and that there was little anybody could do to prevent it,” said Bill Modzeleski, Director of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. Following multiple shootings — in West Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Springfield, Oregon; and others — President Clinton voiced concern about perceptions of safety in the nation’s schools. “He, too, was confused about what was happening in schools and asked the Departments of Justice and Education to put together an annual report on school safety — to make the public more aware about just what is happening in our nation’s schools,” Modzeleski noted. The 1998 Annual Report on School Safety was released in October 1998. This report for parents, schools, and communities provides an overview of the scope of school crime and describes actions that can be taken to address this issue. The document is divided into four chapters: The Nature and Scope of School Crime; What Communities Can Do Through Collaboration; Model Programs; and Resources.
n Fewer than 1% of the more than
7,000 children who were murdered in 1992 and 1993 combined were killed at school. n Between 1993 and 1997, there was an overall decline in the percentage of students in grades 9 to 12 who reported carrying a weapon to school at least one day in the prior 30 days. n The percentage of high school seniors who reported carrying a weapon to school on at least one day within the previous four weeks declined from 8% in 1993 to 6% in 1996.
n Provide crisis response services n Use alternate school settings for
educating violent and weaponcarrying students. n Reach out to communities & businesses to improve the safety of students n Actively involve students in making decisions about school policies and programs. n Prepare an annual report on school crime and safety.
What students can do
n Behave responsibly. n Report crimes and threats to school
WHAT COMMUNITIES CAN DO THROUGH COLLABORATION
According to the Annual Report on School Safety, many communities are successfully reducing school crime and violence by adopting a strategy that takes into account the specific safety problem
n Get involved in or start anticrime
programs at school.
n Seek help.
The report cites a number of programs that have been designated as either demonstrated or promising programs. The programs listed were identified under a Department of Justice grant to the Hamilton Fish National Institute on School and Community Violence. The examples cover a wide variety of problems that schools face, including aggression/fighting, bullying, family issues, gangs, racial and other bias-related conflict, sexual harassment/sexual violence, substance abuse, truancy/dropout, vandalism, and weapons. Demonstrated programs have been rigorously tested in the field and have solid evidence of their effectiveness. In the evaluation of demonstrated models, two groups of youth were examined before and after an intervention; one group received the intervention, while the other (the control group) did not. The intervention group demonstrated a greater reduction in violence over time than did the control group. Promising programs are viewed as well-designed programs that have not yet been thoroughly tested. Some promising models presented have been evaluated, but need further testing with stronger evaluation designs to prove their effectiveness. Other promising models in the report have yet to be evaluated but are based on earlier research.
THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF SCHOOL CRIME
This chapter was developed from information provided by numerous surveys and reports. The findings show that the overall school crime rate for students aged 12-18 declined, homicides in school are rare events, most school crime is theft, and fewer students are bringing weapons to school. Specific data shows: n Overall school crime rate between 1993 and 1996 declined slightly, from about 164 school-related crimes for every 1,000 students aged 12-18 in 1993 to approximately 128 such crimes in 1996. n In 1996, there were 79 thefts for every 1,000 students (aged 12-18) at school. Theft accounted for approximately 62% of all crime against students at school that year.
experienced by the school and then identifies an appropriate intervention. The report presents steps for developing and implementing such a strategy from a comprehensive plan. It provides a list of actions that communities should take, as well as lists for schools, students, parents, police, juvenile justice authorities, and businesses. Below are highlights from the lists for schools and students.
What schools can do
n Redesign facility to eliminate dark, se-
cluded, and unsupervised spaces.
n Devise a system for reporting/analyz-
ing violent and noncriminal incidents. n Enlist school security professionals in designing and maintaining the school security system. n Train school staff in all aspects of violence prevention. n Provide all students access to school psychologists or counselors.
This section of the report provides readers with a large number of places they can turn to for more information. Included in this chapter are federal resources, federal on-line documents, organizations, Web sites, listservs, and videos.
THE CHALLENGE V9 N1
Modzeleski explains obstacles and presents solutions to NSAC Conference
Continued from page one
ming, we must move in the direction of what works.” The Director added that, by using research-based programs, he doesn’t want to hamper the creativity that exists in the field. “Moving in the direction of what works, toward developing and implementing effective programs, we have to be very careful not to stymie the appetite and enthusiasm of programmers. We must be continually open to new ideas, new approaches, and new strategies to solve these problems. And our openness to these ideas really needs to be balanced with our need for accountability and results.”
3. Failure to view school safety and drug prevention in a broad context.
Modzeleski believes that the prevention field must “move away from a series of unconnected school-based programs.” Instead, he says, “We must move toward a series of activities and programs that are practiced in families and communities and woven together in a seamless strategy directly linked to the mission of schools and ongoing educational reform.” This challenge has three points related to it: n The school day is changing. Every state has now or will soon have elevated standards for core academic subjects, meaning that teachers, principals, and superintendents are going to be accountable for what students learn. “As we see school districts falling short of these high academic standards, there is going to be a scramble to see ‘what can we do in a school day to put five more minutes into a science or English program.’ I don’t see many schools saying, ‘Can we find five more minutes for drug prevention or violence prevention?’ The struggle will be to see where we are going to fit into the changing school day.” n A host of prevention programs are unrelated to each other. Finding a better way to connect programs in schools is critical, Modzeleski said. Instead of using one program in second grade and another in eighth grade, programs should be connected to each other and to whatever else is being done in the community, its juvenile justice system,
and its mental health services. n There is an increased emphasis on educational reform — meaning higher standards, better teachers, smaller class sizes. Modzeleski warned the conference attendees, “There is no doubt about it, educational reform is coming your way.” He believes that SDFSP must become part of this process. “Our role, our challenge, I should say, is to see how we can take our programs and link them to educational reform, because the primary purpose of schools is to educate all children. We need to demonstrate that what we do is part of educational reform.”
4. Failure to target schools and communities in need.
“The good news from SDFSP is that 97% of the school districts in this country receive funding from us. The bad news is that 97% of the school districts in this country receive SDFSP funding. What this means is that everyone receives funding, but approximately 60% of schools receive less than $10,000 in safe and drug-free schools funds,” Modzeleski reported. Not every school district has the same needs, and there should be a better way to identify need and target the SDFSP resources. “There is something of an inconsistency here. On one hand, we’re calling for more data collection, the use of sciencebased programs, more comprehensive programs, and better linkages with the community; and on the other hand, we’re providing a majority of school districts with less than $10,000. While every school district in this country can honestly say that, to some degree, they have problems with crime and violence, drug abuse, or discipline, not every school district has problems of the same magnitude and not every district has the same resources to deal with these problems.”
5. Failure to develop sound educational/ prevention programs for all students, not just those who regularly attend mainstream educational institutions.
“We’re becoming uniquely aware of the number of young men and women in this country of school age who are not in school on any given day. And the number is huge; it’s immense,” Modzeleski reported. This group includes those who have been expelled, suspended, or are truant, as well as those in correctional facilities. When we begin to talk about providing services to students, we must not forget that population.” An important step that SDFSP has taken to address these five obstacles is the promulgation of its Principles of Effectiveness. The Principles require all school districts, in order to receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools funding, to follow four steps: 1) conduct a needs assessment; 2) establish measurable goals and objectives; 3) use research-based programs; and 4) conduct periodic evaluations of the program’s progress. Other efforts of SDFSP involve initiatives proposed in its reauthorization and the use of discretionary money — both of which are described in the following article. Modzeleski is enthusiastic about the activity in his program and feels the time is right to bring together everyone interested in helping students. “It’s clear to us that no person, no group, no organization that wants to help students and help create safe environments should be turned away,” he said. “Our job shouldn’t be to say to any group or any program, you’re not wanted or that your program is not good enough. Our job is to find a way to ensure that there’s a relevant role for everyone — everyone who wants to participate. And our role is to try to improve the quality of those programs that come to the table and want to take part. If they lack adequate quality, our role is to help them along.”
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