Friday, March 29, 2013

A look at school violence over 40 years shows it is least common in rural areas

European Press Photo by Andrew Gombert
The Rural School and Community Trust released a special edition of its publication, Rural Policy Matters, that analyzes incidents of reported school violence since 1974. Using 700 media accounts, the publication found 80 accounts of mass violence, claiming 153 lives.

"Although mass violence events tend to capture more general media attention, we found three times more deaths in incidents that were not part of mass violence events," Rural Policy Matters reports. "Overall, students were the most frequent perpetrators and victims of violence in schools."

Violence was less common in rural areas. During the 2009-10 school year, of the 20 or more reported incidents of school violence, only 14 percent occurred in rural areas, 19 percent happened in suburbs, 21 percent were in towns and 25 percent occurred in cities.

"Rural schools have tended to have some advantages when it comes to school violence," one editorial notes. "For one, rural schools have been smaller, closer to home, so if a family or a kid were in crisis or just volatile, someone would likely know and might be able to do something to ease the pressure. It’s usually this personal nature that is credited for the comparatively low levels of violence and discipline problems that rural schools have long enjoyed."

Because many violent acts are not reported by the media and many more happen outside of school events, "this report is best understood as a journalistic exploration rather than a statistical analysis," Rural Policy Matters explains. "Our emphasis is on the patterns and circumstances that run through the stories and on the larger narratives that the stories, taken together, tell. We note that the patterns in our collection of incidents align with empirical research published elsewhere. To the extent that we report numbers, we rely on tallies and rounded percentages to convey the most important themes."

Another editorial reads: "The vast majority of assailants and victims in school violence are kids. Among the many striking aspects of the stories were how few of the kids who committed violence came across in reports as 'evil.' There were, to be sure, some kids who seemed to have no insight or no remorse about what they had done. But far more common were stories that suggested a distraught kid, an agonizing loss, at least in his mind, and the majority were boys, tragic adult failures, a future perceived as hopeless." The graphic is from the special edition, which can be found here.

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