Upgrade Anti-Violence Programs, Experts Say: Youth Policy In Hyper-Drive?

Greg Lantier
September 1, 1998

National media coverage of student killings as “a recent trend” has created a faulty belief that schools are increasingly dangerous and has prompted a rash of poor youth policy proposals, claims a new report by the D.C.-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJC).

“School House Hype: School Shootings and the Real Risks Kids Face in America,” reports that the risk of a youth being killed at school remains slightly less than one-in-a-million, and that school shooting deaths have actually dropped since 1992 (from 55 to 40). In contrast, the report says that eight children die each day by gunfire: usually between 4 and 5 p.m., or on weekends, or during summer vacations, when children are most likely to be unsupervised.

“In terms of risk, schools, for the most part, continue to be safer than the communities in which they exist,” says Ronald Stephens, executive director of Pepperdine University’s National School Safety Center, which was involved in the study. “However, it’s hard to recognize that in the wake of recent media coverage.”

The report warns that the perception that schools are becoming more dangerous has led to ill-informed calls to end after-school programs (from Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, among others), to place more police officers in schools (President Clinton), to try juvenile offenders as adults (Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jeff Sessions), and to increase expulsions and suspensions from school.

The study, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, used data from federal agencies, the National School Safety Center, the National Safe Kids Campaign, and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

The CJC can be reached at (202) 678-9282.

Lantier, Greg. "Upgrade Anti-Violence Programs, Experts Say: Youth Policy In Hyper-Drive?"Youth Today, September 1998, p. 26.

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