Since the Columbine school massacre in 1999, schools have been far more vigilant in responding, almost instantly, to violence. The Christian Science Monitor says their turn toward proactive, preventive approaches may be paying off, judging by the new federal report saying that non-fatal school violence dropped dramatically between 1992 and 2002. While some data show an uptick since then, and a rise in school-related violent deaths for 2003-04, many laud schools’ aggressive intervention on everything from bullying to bombs.
The late-1990s series of school shootings was a wakeup call to many districts. Schools installed metal detectors and honed crisis response plans, but many have also increased preventive work, targeting bullying and drawing the community into the conversation. Experts increasingly agree that those “soft” approaches are key to reducing violence. Still, some experts fear complacency and call the numbers misleading. “Nobody wants to be alarmist, but the federal government statistics grossly underestimate the extent of school violence, public perception tends to overestimate it, and the reality is somewhere in between,” says Kenneth Trump of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm that helps schools with safety issues. Trump notes that the new report does not take into account a recent rise in school-related violence, which included 49 deaths just last year. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and some experts urge trying to involve students in solutions.