School safety

Most instances of violence in our schools are limited to fisticuffs between students. However, serious school violence does occur in both suburban and urban schools. Although most gun violence occurs at large high schools, middle school students are more likely to bring weapons to school. A recent survey found that 95% of students said they felt safe in school. However, nearly a quarter of these students also said they knew students who regularly carried weapons to school. Surveys of high school students found that about 6% of all students had carried a gun or knife to school within a month of the survey. About 7% reported being threatened or attacked with a weapon in the previous year. Teachers were targeted in about 5% of violent school crime events, while school bus drivers were attacked the most often. Many communities have responded to school violence by training school staff in emergency procedures and hiring armed guards.

Many schools have also instituted “zero tolerance” policies in response to student misconduct. Often called “pushout,” these policies call for extreme disciplinary measures such as suspending or expelling offending students. Some advocates are now calling for fewer school guards and more moderate discipline policies. One study found the more that police are placed in our schools, the more minority students are arrested. A theory called “From Schoolhouse to Jailhouse” suggests that one reason a disproportionate number of minorities are now incarcerated is because many of these offenders were suspended or expelled from school and subsequently got into trouble while on the streets. Supporters of this theory say that students who have not committed egregious offenses are better socialized by remaining in school. Applying this theory, some schools have greatly reduced suspensions for fighting, stealing, talking back or other disruptive behavior. Before resorting to punishment and automatic suspensions, students are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators, or engage in community service. These solutions are referred to as “restorative justice.”

Pending Legislation: H.R.2248 - Ending PUSHOUT Act of 2021
Sponsor: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA)
Status: House Committee on Education and Labor
Chair: Rep. Blobby Scott (VA)

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Poll Opening Date
September 19, 2022
Poll Closing Date
September 25, 2022

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