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EDUCATION AND DELINQUENCY: Summary of a Workshop Consequences of Crime Protection Measures in Schools SCHOOL CRIME AND CHANGES IN SCHOOL CLIMATE Trump pointed out the importance of student fear of victimization, noting that it is an issue that should not be overlooked by school administrators and teachers concerned with school crime. Not only is student fear of victimization tied to a school’s ability to provide an environment conducive to learning, but it may also play a key role in how effective a school is in preventing crime in the first place. According to the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, between 1989 and 1995 the percentage of students ages 12 to 19 who felt unsafe while at school rose from 6 to 9 percent. The increase in student fear of victimization was greatest among black students; between 1989 and 1995 black students who reported being fearful while at school nearly doubled (from 7 percent in 1989 to 13 percent in 1995) (Chandler et al., 1998; Kaufman et al., 1998). Workshop participant John Devine, of New York University’s School of Education, reported on study findings from troubled urban schools suggesting that, when children don’t believe their school is safe, they adopt a “self-help” approach wherein they resolve to address disputes on their own or with the help of peers, which can have potentially harmful consequences. To prevent students from resorting to such self-help, schools could have in place consistent and fair mechanisms to deal with students—both offenders and victims—in the aftermath of a school crime incident. Not having programs or mechanisms in place to deal effectively
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EDUCATION AND DELINQUENCY: Summary of a Workshop with school crime undermines students’ sense of safety, increases fear of victimization, and encourages destructive behavior. Throughout the workshop, participants emphasized the need for teachers and school administrators to take a more central role in addressing the problem of school crime. Devine suggested that a big part of this involves teachers connecting with students—encouraging more informal student-teacher interaction—traditionally a large part of the teacher’s role. Over the past 20 years this has changed, as the physical space of schools has become more and more narrowly defined for teachers. According to Devine, the classroom is where the teacher retains most of his or her control and authority, while public places in schools are no longer thought of as teaching places. For example, as the role of teachers has evolved, informal interactions between students and teachers in the hallways, cafeteria, and stairwells of schools have become increasingly rare. In the past, teachers would gather in the halls with children and were able to influence them through this interaction. Teachers were also able to familiarize themselves with children outside class and influence their lives by being able to be a part of or to challenge youth culture. This change in the role of teachers has accompanied other changes in how schools function. Devine argued that in some school systems the traditional authority role of teachers has been delegated to school security guards, who police the areas of the school outside the classroom. He suggested that the movement of guards into schools and the increasing use of security technology are part of a profound change in education that has splintered the role and authority of teachers. He also noted how pressure on teachers from unions, administrators, parents, and the public regarding the proper role of teachers vis-à-vis students has discouraged physical contact with students, for the protection of students as well as teachers. This involves not only what would be considered improper physical contact between students and teachers but also situations in which teachers might intervene in physical altercations involving students. In some school districts the teacher’s role in witnessing a fight or an altercation that is likely to lead to a fight is to call the school security guard or simply let the incident play out. Students are aware of teachers’ withdrawal from the sphere outside the classroom and realize that teachers are purposefully underenforcing the rules there, noted Devine. Unfortunately, students may come away thinking that teachers do not care. This quite easily contributes to students’ insecurity in those areas of school outside teachers’ control and authority. For some students these areas become a no-man’s land, a war zone, where in order to survive one must act tough. According to Devine, children want more structure in the school environment but cannot find it. Moreover, he argued that students are also not wholly satisfied with
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EDUCATION AND DELINQUENCY: Summary of a Workshop what happens inside classrooms. They would like more involvement with teachers and indicate that disorder in classrooms gets in the way of learning. NORMALIZATION OF VIOLENCE The use of security technology and personnel in schools has increased enormously in the past 20 years. For example, Devine noted in his presentation that in 1968 the New York City public school system did not employ security guards. Thirty years later, in 1998, there were more than 3,200 security guards—more law enforcement officers than in the entire Boston Police Department. Faced with widespread fear, many schools have instituted programs for protecting students and property from crime. Strategies to enhance physical security include limiting access; enhancing communications systems; developing personnel and student identification procedures; and installing alarms to notify authorities of intrusions, markings for inventory control, secure locks, and protective lighting (Trump, 1998). They also include placing security guards in hallways, using metal detectors at entrances, and mounting cameras to survey students as they walk between classes. Such devices help school administrators present an appearance of being in control. That appearance may reduce parental concerns about crime in schools and have other side benefits as well. Only a handful of studies have attempted to evaluate effects of using technology to reduce school crime or fear of crime. In one of them, Ginsberg and Loffredo (1993) conducted a study of a representative sample of New York City high school students in schools with and without metal detectors. It was found that students in both settings were equally likely to report having been threatened or involved in an altercation at or away from school. There was also little difference between the two groups of students in self-reported weapon carrying (in other settings outside school) in the prior month. Differences did emerge, though, between these two groups of students regarding the prevalence of carrying a weapon in school. Students in schools with metal detectors were half as likely to report carrying a weapon to or from school as students in schools without metal detectors. According to Devine, the overt message these devices send is that the school is concerned about violence and is taking steps to prevent it. However, the latent message that reliance on security technology and personnel sends is that the school expects violence. This normalization of violence may lead students to believe that teachers and school administrators no longer exercise control and that control has been given over to the technology and the personnel brought into the school to keep crime out.
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EDUCATION AND DELINQUENCY: Summary of a Workshop The ability of teachers to educate, Devine suggested, is likely to be undermined by the persistent focus on crime. Devine argued that it is wrong to think only of creating safe schools. Administrators should think about creating safe school systems. While it is true that in some ways individual schools are unique, schools are interconnected in complex ways. How one school responds to disorder, crime, and violence affects other schools. For example, when a small alternative school is created in a neighborhood in which school crime has been a problem, it may skim off the neighborhood’s best students. In this way, alternative schools may isolate and marginalize larger schools and increase the concentration of students in those schools who do not perform well academically, which may in turn affect the incidence of school crime. Schools have instituted numerous programs designed to address issues of school safety. These programs include disciplinary procedures (e.g., expulsion, suspension), programs of classroom instruction, behavior management, counseling, mentoring, recreation, classroom management, intergroup relations, parenting, security, and architectural arrangements. Only a handful of school-based programs have received the types of careful evaluation that would justify a conclusion that they are effective in reducing crimes (Gottfredson, 1997). For the most part, programs that merely provide leisure activities have been found ineffective as crime prevention measures. Programs that encouraged school problem solving, clear specification of school norms, and improved classroom management appear promising in prevention of crime. Evidence regarding their impact on education is mixed. Workshop participants knew of no credible evidence about the impact of security devices or security patrols on education.
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