BOSTON — IF Americans needed any more confirmation that many of their public schools are far from safe havens for learning, a recent survey by the National League of Cities provides it.
The NLC queried cities and towns about violence in their schools and found that 39 percent of the 700 respondents said violent incidents have increased significantly over the past five years. Forty-five percent said the levels had remained constant. One quarter noted serious injuries or deaths during the past year. Only 11 percent reported violence was not a problem, and 6 percent said it had decreased.
Contrary to perceptions that school crime and violence are concentrated in central cities, the survey indicated that officials in many suburban and rural communities also worry about the problem. Around 30 percent of the cities in all categories reported significant increases in school violence. Among cities with populations of 100,000 or more, the proportion reporting increased violence was 55 percent.
Many communities are addressing school violence by assigning police officers to schools. About 70 percent said they had regular patrols or other activities on campus. The police involvement often includes talking with students about elicit drug use and other topics. One positive aspect of the school-violence issue: It is forcing closer cooperation among city halls, police departments, and school officials.