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A Brief History of School Violence in the United States (2011)

In this Weekend Reads excerpt from Lockdown High, Annette Fuentes reconstructs the history of school violence in the US, as both a fact and a concept, from the nineteenth century onwards. 

Annette Fuentes22 March 2018

From Blackboard Jungle (1955).

In Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, published by Verso in 2011, journalist Annette Fuentes reports on the variety of ways in which American schools were remodeled for the age of mass incarceration, even as rates of violence in schools and juvenile crime declined.  

Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that increasingly have come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance, the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security, and violence...In a strange paradox that is so American, children are considered both potential victims, vulnerable to dangers from every corner, and perpetrators of great violence and mayhem, demanding strict, preventive discipline.

In the excerpt below, the book's first chapter, Fuentes looks at the history of school violence and the way it has been imagined in the United States since the nineteenth century.  

The next Friday, Danny again had a long list of offenses chalked up against him, whispering and giggling, mainly; and after school he was dragged into the outside hall to be beaten into another week of physical misery. This time the teacher had her own switches...and she wore out three of these on him. As she reached for the fourth, the boy stepped back and pulled his knife from his pocket.

“If you hit me again — I’ll cut you to pieces,” he shouted, opening the long blade and squaring himself for a finish fight.

For an instant the teacher stood dumbfounded. She raised her whip and took a step forward, but insanely angry as she was, she saw something in the boy’s eyes that fortunately arrested her step...after a moment’s hesitation, she backed into the school room and closed the door. —From the memoir Sod and Stubble: The Story of a Kansas Homestead by John Isle

Long before the term school violence entered popular parlance, before metal detectors became fixtures at the schoolhouse door, before the Lockdown High approach to school safety gained currency, conflict and violence of one sort or another were part of this country’s education system. Prone as we are to nostalgia about our history, schools of the past are imagined as Norman Rockwell havens of quaint custom and benign behavior, in vivid contrast to the perception of today’s schools as drug- and weapon-riddled hellholes where teachers daily risk their necks and worthy children can’t get an education.

But for as long as there have been public schools — district schools or the common schools of early American educational history — there has been chaos and control, crime and punishment in the classroom as teacher and student have waged their power struggles and defined their roles. The rhythm of switch and ferule — even the cat-o’-nine-tails — provided the meter by which the early schoolmaster or -mistress imparted the three Rs and obedience to misbehaving youngsters. Challenging the master’s supremacy was likewise common practice among older students like Danny who dared to teach the teachers a lesson about the limits of their authority. The jackknife, found in the pockets of many a farm boy, was as common in some schoolhouses, no doubt, as McGuffey’s Readers.

The dialectic of dissent and discipline in classrooms has always existed because the schoolhouse, while a safer haven for children than most places, has never been immune to the turmoil and changes swirling outside its doors. But more than that, the genesis of the public school system was as a solution to the upheavals that characterized the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The industrializing nation witnessed growing social tumult and economic quakes as factory supplanted farm and rural areas hemorrhaged population to incipient urban enclaves. The order and authority that once derived from strong family and community networks frayed. Schools would be institutions of control and socialization, turning a potentially disruptive population into productive, law-abiding citizens.

Efforts at the state and local levels to create common schools were propelled as much by fears of social disorder and burgeoning crime as by high-minded ideals about forging an educated citizenry. This was especially true in cities of the northeast, where immigrants from Ireland and Germany streamed during the mid-1800s, joining displaced farm families and youths. Education reformers of the time, such as Horace Mann, were clear in their philosophy. At an 1842 convention of school superintendents in Utica, New York, which Mann attended, the prominent civic leader Rev. Alonzo Potter stated his philosophy for supporting public schools: “Resolved, That the best police for our cities, the lowest insurance of our houses, the firmest security for our banks, the most effective means of preventing pauperism, vice and crime, and the only sure defense of our country, are our common schools.” Asked to respond to Potter’s proposal, Mann gave it his stamp of approval. 1

Given this background, it makes sense that the first compulsory education law, passed in Massachusetts in 1852, involved reform schools — precursors to juvenile jails, in a sense. Aimed at youth who were not in school or gainfully employed, whom the law defined as truants, it permitted the police to scoop them up from the hurly-burly of Boston street life and its temptations of vice and crime. Almost an early version of current day racial profiling in law enforcement, this law targeted Irish children, who, along with their mostly impoverished families, were seen as contributing to social disorder and crime. According to one report on truants in 1853, 559 foreign-born youth were sent to reform schools for truancy, while 98 Americans were. 2

The late nineteenth century brought promotion of compulsory education laws for all children and youth by the same civic-minded reformers and educators, with the same rationale of securing social order. As one Chicago Board of Education member stated the issue in 1868: “We should rightfully have the power to arrest all these little beggars, loafers, and vagabonds that infest our city, take them from the streets and place them in schools where they are compelled to receive education and learn moral principles...We certainly should not permit a reckless and indifferent part of our population to rear their children in ignorance to become a criminal and lawless class within our community.” 3

Schoolhouse Rules

Th e one-room schoolhouse that characterized most district schools around the country in the 1800s was distant from the reality of truant Irish youth on Boston or New York streets. But whether in a Midwestern log schoolhouse or in a brick city schoolhouse, student misbehavior and teacher discipline were an ever-present feature of education. By today’s standards, methods of discipline could border on outright torture, and some incidents of student defiance would land such a perpetrator in police custody were he or she in a modern classroom. Imagine the outcome for a student in a contemporary classroom pulling a knife on a teacher as Danny did in that Kansas schoolroom! He would be arrested by school police, suspended for weapons possession, and face criminal prosecution.

Rural students attended school for several months during the winter, when their labors weren’t needed at the family farm, and sometimes for a period during the summer. Depending on the population, forty or more students might be crammed into the room and supervised by one teacher, male or female, who might not be much older than the oldest students. For children and adolescents used to physical activity and the relative freedom of farm life, the constraints of the classroom and its requisite obedience could be as challenging as learning their letters. Sitting rod-straight on hard plank benches, paying rapt attention to their lessons, students had to battle natural instincts to fidget and play or risk the wrath of the schoolmaster. 4

Rules of conduct could be straightjacket strict, transgressions almost impossible for youngsters to avoid. As the forerunners to current zero tolerance school discipline codes, the school rules of yesteryear were equally harsh and at odds with youthful natures. Schoolmasters often posted lists of infractions and the punishments they would elicit. In Stokes County, North Carolina, in 1848, one school’s rules listed forty-seven prohibitions, including “Boys & Girls Playing Together,” punishable with four lashes; “Telling Tales Out of School,” eight lashes; “Telling Lyes (sic),” seven lashes; “For Misbehaving to Girls,” ten lashes; and “Making Swings & Swinging on Them,” seven lashes. Playing cards, gambling or betting, nicknaming other students, and fighting or quarreling were also prohibited and would draw whippings. 5

The deterrent effect of such disciplinary codes was questionable, and many accounts from early school days tell of brutal punishments freely administered. In an 1833 memoir, Warren Burton recalled his education in a Massachusetts schoolhouse in the early 1800s with less than fondness for Mehitabel Holt, his teacher for the third summer of instruction.

She kept order, for her punishments were horrible, especially to us little ones. She dungeoned us in that windowless closet just for a whisper. She tied us to her chair post for an hour because sportive nature tempted our fingers and toes into something like play. If we were restless on our seats, wearied of our posture, fretted by the heat, or sick of the unintelligible lesson, a twist of the ear or a snap on the head, from her thimbled finger, reminded us that sitting perfectly still, was the most important virtue of a little boy in school.

But Holt’s methods paled in comparison with those of “the particular master,” Burton’s teacher for his fifth winter school session.

The first morning of school he read us a long list of the regulations to be observed in school, and out...Half the time was spent calling up scholars for little misdemeanors, trying to make them confess their faults, and promise stricter obedience or in devising punishments and inflicting them. Some were ferruled on the hand, some were whipped with a rod on the back, some were compelled to hold out at arm’s length, the largest book that could be found, or a great leaden inkstand, till muscle and nerve, bone and marrow were tortured with the continued exertion...Another mode of punishment, the anti-whispering process, was setting the jaws at painful distance apart, by inserting a chip, perpendicularly between the teeth...

Burton noted that the particular master’s punishments were not unusual because “the prevailing opinion among both teachers and parents [was] that boys and girls would play and be mischievous at any rate, and that consequently masters must punish them in some way or other.

In another bloodcurdling account, a writer in a teacher’s monthly tells of his experience in a school held in the basement of a Gothic church in 1829. 

Before there was any Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it was my misfortune to be a school-boy in the city of New York. I mention this last benevolent institution, since if there then had been such a thing, there also might have been some society, or some law, for the prevention of cruelty to school-boys.

The schoolmaster delegated instruction to an older boy known as the “Dictator” but reserved the dispensing of punishment for himself.

On the wall, behind the master, in full view of the whole school, to keep the scholars in perpetual remembrance, hung a cat-o’-nine-tails of enormous size. The handle had the dimensions of a farmer’s flail. The lashes were of corresponding length and as thick as your finger; it took both hands to wield it. This was taken down to be used on extra occasions only; but a single-handed one was in constant service...In addition to these, erected on the platform to the right of the master, was another apparatus of the system, called “The Iron Bar.” This was a rail of iron, about three feet long and about an inch square at its transverse section...The offending boy was made to mount upon it with his bare feet. He was allowed no means of balancing himself...If he fell off , or let one foot touch the platform, the master, sitting within striking distance would lash him on again with a savage stroke of the “Cat.”

Like Warren Burton, this writer forgave the schoolmaster’s classroom cruelties: “[He] acted in accordance with the opinions and desires of those to whom he was immediately accountable. He no doubt thought he was doing his duty.” But as to the effectiveness of the methods, the writer was dubious and suggested that the harsh school environment had only prepared some of his classmates for more of the same as adults: “And the hundred and fifty scholars, where are they? I have never heard that any one of them rose above the common walks of life. Many grew up to be hard cases. Having graduated at the severest of penitentiaries, they found no terror in the idea of State-prison.” 7

By the late nineteenth century, draconian punishment by schoolmasters was no longer unquestioningly accepted in an atmosphere of educational reform. Educators debated the limits of school discipline in their journals, and the courts joined the fray by considering the legal limits of a teacher’s physical authority. By 1865, for example, courts in Vermont and Massachusetts had found permissible the use of the ferule, while Indiana’s Supreme Court had outlawed it. An article in the American Educational Monthly published that year noted that “Discipline, school discipline, government, — the words are heard at every gathering of teachers and school commissioners from Maine to Mexico...” The shifting standards meant that “From some schools the rod is banished, while in others it is considered that the sparing of the rod is the spoiling of the child, and a contempt of the Holy Writ...”

Rebellions and Showdowns

In a time when police officers patrol public schools and effect arrests for pushing and shoving — now defined as disorderly conduct — it’s astounding to learn just how disorderly students could be back in the supposedly bucolic days of the one-room schoolhouse. Yet student-teacher confronations over authority and punishments were not only common, but almost a tradition. The practice of “turning the teacher out” was a test of strength and wills in which older, usually male students tried to boot the teacher out of the classroom. There were rarely serious repercussions, and certainly no arrests. Loulie Ayer Beall wrote of a memorable incident from her school days in Webster County, Nebraska, in 1880, when students ganged up on a “stern and dictatorial” teacher who was whacking a classmate with an eighteen-inch ruler.

[T]he boy positively refused to obey, saying, “I won’t do it!” before an assembly of forty pupils. Quickly the teacher snatched up the long black ruler and stalked to the boy’s desk, declaring, “We’ll see about that!” A hush pervaded the room; all eyes were turned in the direction of the scene about to be enacted. A calloused hand was outstretched before the teacher-dictator...the strokes numbered five. “Now will you go?” “Never” was the only word spoken. Again the ruler was raised...a dozen boys sprang from their seats as if by signal, seized the uplifted arm, wrested the ruler from the master’s hand, and thrust the hated ruler into the stove...The larger boys caught up the teacher and carried him out of doors, rolled him over and over in the snow, and admonished him to “study his lesson” for the rest of the afternoon.

Beall noted that school was held as usual the next day, with no mention of the incident, and “little comment was made concerning it in the neighborhood.” 8

There was almost an expectation that students, especially boys, would challenge the schoolmaster as something of a rite of passage. In his recollection of school days in 1815 in “the wilds of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania,” I. L. Kephart wrote of “barring out the teacher” six days before Christmas to persuade him to buy holiday treats for the students. Barricading the door of the log cabin schoolhouse, armed with wooden slabs, Kephart and his classmates repelled the master when he returned from his lunchtime.

The conditions of surrender were presented to him. He read them, indignantly pronounced them outrageous...and declared he was coming in if he had to pull the house down...the master started for his boarding-place, and soon returned with an ax on his shoulder. We knew this meant business, and the excitement from within was rapidly rising to a white heat. Some were crying, some were alternately pleading and demanding that the door be opened, while the more courageous were loudly asserting their determination to keep him out at all hazards...At this juncture, the teacher vigorously assaulted the door, pounding it with the ax until he split it in several places. This availing him nothing, he climbed the roof and commenced tearing away the clapboards...we sent the end of the slab through the roof with such force that, striking him in the breast, we sent him clear over the eaves to the ground. This caused a shout of triumph to ascend from below which was almost deafening. True, he might have been killed by the fall, but that was a secondary consideration for us.

The student takeover ended after several days and, as in Beall’s account, there were no consequences for their rebellion. The schoolmaster was “in a jolly good humor, and everything proceeded as if there had been no ‘barring out.’” He even bought them ten pounds of loaf sugar at the term’s end. 9

The Bath School Disaster

No history, brief or otherwise, of school violence would be complete without the tale of the Bath, Michigan, school tragedy. Most people consider the Columbine High School incident of 1999 to be the worst-ever example of school violence, with its total of fifteen deaths. But the 1927 Bath incident, in which forty-four died, had the highest human toll and perhaps most diabolical plot. The former school board member and farmer Andrew Kehoe dynamited the district school, killing thirty-eight pupils. Kehoe, who’d spent months plotting, was angry about soaring school taxes and the impending foreclosure on his farm. He aimed, according to newspaper accounts, to destroy the whole school and kill all 260 students. Kehoe dynamited his own car, with himself in it, as the school burned, but not before murdering his wife and setting his farm ablaze. The terrible scale of Kehoe’s destruction and its aft ermath are recounted in minute detail in an eyewitness account titled The Bath School Disaster, self-published by the Bath resident Monty J. Ellsworth. If ever an incident deserved the categorization of “school violence,” the Bath Disaster does.

While school violence is usually associated with actions carried out by students against other students and teachers within the schoolhouse — the Columbine scenario — it encompasses a wider array of actions and perpetrators. The outside intruder, like Kehoe, who targets students, teachers or other school staff, is also part of the phenomenon. In September 2006, a drifter entered a Colorado high school and held six female students hostage, finally killing himself and one girl. Five days later, in early October, an apparently mentally unbalanced man, not unlike Andrew Kehoe, walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and shot to death five girls and then himself. Charles Roberts, age thirty-two, was a dairy truck driver with no connection to the school, no criminal record, and no apparent reason for wanting to harm the children. These incidents generated headline coverage and much speculation about the attackers’ motivations — never explained — and fears that they were the start of a murderous trend of intruder school violence. No such trend was initiated, and, thankfully, criminologists and school safety experts were loath to forecast any surge in intruder crimes.

Juvenile Delinquents in a Blackboard Jungle

Post–World War II saw another period of upheavals and shifts in the country’s economic and social order. A mass migration from the south brought new populations of blacks to the northern cities, Puerto Ricans began a major migration to the mainland, and returning veterans came home to a different world. Women who had filled the factory jobs vacated by GI Joe were booted back to the domestic sphere. Cities were bulging and the suburbs were about to become the next latest thing in residential development. An old problem with a new urgency called juvenile delinquency was emerging to the alarm of psychologists and sociologists, and to the vexation of parents and schools. The 1950s, for all its veneer of nuclear family normalcy, was also a time of youth gangs in urban areas and of the alienated youth immortalized by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Delinquency was blamed for rising crime rates in New York and other cities by “youthful offenders.” New York’s police commissioner reported a 32 percent increase from 1955 to 1956 in arrests of youths under age sixteen, and the FBI estimated similar national trends. 10

Researchers of this era cranked out volumes on the causes and characteristics of delinquency, calling it “one of the most critical problems confronting the American people.” Social disorganization was to blame, declared the psychologist Martin Neumeyer. “Maladjustments seem to be the inevitable consequences of rapid and unequal changes in the social order. Juveniles, in particular, seem to be affected in an unusual way by these rapidly changing conditions.” 11 Viewed as part mental illness and part social disease, delinquency was blamed on such factors as broken homes, poverty, “cultural differences,” and even comic books, television, and movies. The missing mother and father were to blame, according to the psychologist Richard McCann: Delinquent children “have been crippled by an inadequate concept of themselves, a distorted self-image. In many cases it has been caused by a lack of stable, meaningful relationships and a consequent deficiency of love.” 12

A landmark 1950 study by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck compared five hundred delinquent and nondelinquent children. Delinquents, they found, were more likely to repeat grades and drop out of school, and typically did not get along well with their schoolmates. They “misbehaved more extensively than did non-delinquents.” 13 The Gluecks’ portrait of young delinquents was brought to life vividly in the 1953 novel The Blackboard Jungle, by Evan Hunter, a pulp novelist of minor talent and florid prose. The jungle is North Manual Trades High School in New York City, and the inhabitants are poor white, black, and Puerto Rican boys relegated to a vocational school. The ostensible hero is a Navy veteran, Richard Dadier, who becomes an English teacher after returning from the war and learns his tough-guy demeanor and earnest desire to teach are no match for his unruly students: “A last-period class is always a restless one, and when a boy is thinking about the money he can be out earning, it can become a torture, even if the English teacher is the best English teacher in the world — which Rick was not...Nor can you push around a nineteen-year-old boy when he sometimes outweighs you and outmuscles you and outreaches you.”

Dadier’s idealism clashes with the veteran teacher Solly’s view of the students and vocational education: “This is the garbage can of the educational system. Every vocational school in the city. You put them all together and you got one big, fat, overflowing garbage can. And you want to know what our job is? Our job is to sit on the lid of the garbage can and see that none of the filth overflows into the streets.” And much like new teachers of the common schools who faced disciplinary challenges, Dadier experiences a more modern version of “turning out the teacher,” when a group of students ambush him outside school. “They gave it to him until they felt they’d squashed his scrotum flat, and then they gave it to him equally around the head. He stopped struggling at last, and they grabbed his briefcase and dumped everything into the gutter, tearing the papers and the notebook, and then ripping the stitching on the bag...

The kid with the knife in his hands got ideas, but the sport was over now, and when the sport is over you get the hell out of the neighborhood before the cops show on the scene.”

Disciplinary policies at North Manual were explained to Dadier by the administrator Max Schaefer: “Clobber the bastards,” he said. “It’s the only thing that works. What do you think happens at home when they open their yaps? Pow, right on the noggin. That’s the only language they understand.”

Although Dadier believes he is above physical discipline, he is tempted because “despite any edicts about corporal punishment, there were a good many vocational school kids who got clobbered every day, and when the heavy hand of someone like Captain Max Schaefer clobbers, the clobberee knows he’s been clobbered, but good. Clobbering, then, was one accepted means of establishing discipline in a trade school.”

Hunter’s novel is cartoonlike in its caricature of the teenagers in North Manual. But The Blackboard Jungle was accurate in reflecting the stereotypes and class biases of the time that fed white, middle-class America’s fears of urban youth and a growing youth culture, which would burst out of conformity in another decade.

Enter "School Violence"

It’s impossible to understand the history of public schools and of school violence without situating them in the larger picture of the nation’s history and the prevailing economic, political, and social currents that shaped it. The fear of social disorder and swelling immigrant populations that gripped the middle class of the nineteenth century motivated reformers such as Horace Mann to champion public schools. In successive generations, educational debates would mirror contemporary concerns about workforce preparation and the need for vocational schools, and about racial segregation in schools. In the mid-to-late 1960s, the irresistible forces acting on public schools were varied and potent. Social protest movements, including those focused on war, civil rights, student rights, and black, Puerto Rican, and Chicano nationalism, were in play. At the same time, in urban areas especially, increasing residential racial segregation and economic hardship for the poor fueled crime and violence. Race riots exploded in Watts, a Los Angeles neighborhood, and in New York City, in 1966 and a year later in Newark and Detroit. Schools were, not surprisingly, one institution where these combustible trends reached their flashpoint.

It was during this period, in fact, that the words school and violence were first joined in news reporting. The stories had nothing to do with the Columbine-type incident that’s come to define the term. Instead, they described a nation whose public schools, especially in cities, were gripped by racial turmoil and the property crimes that were a side effect of it. Perhaps the first news media reference to “school violence” appeared in a Los Angeles Times op ed published in April 1968, which criticized Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago for his reaction to riots sparked by the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rioters set swaths of Chicago ablaze, eleven people were killed, and eleven thousand city police, seven thousand National Guard soldiers, and five hundred federal troops were called in. Daley later ordered police to shoot to kill arsonists and shoot to maim looters — even children among them could be gassed, Daley ordered. The writer noted that in Chicago’s “West Side ghetto,” which was predominantly black, “the level of school violence, always high, was rising dangerously.” 14

In New York City, racial tensions prompted similar student clashes and reporting on “school violence.” In March 1969, the New York Times debuted the term school violence in an article on Mayor John Lindsay’s reactions to escalating “school disorders” and parent protests at public schools around the city. Lindsay, considered a political liberal, faced racial conflict flaring out of control: black parents in two Harlem elementary schools began a boycott to demand appointment of a black school supervisor; black and Puerto Rican students “rampaged” through Eastern District High School in Brooklyn in protest against a white Jewish administrator accused of “harassing” them; and the United Federation of Teachers, a predominantly white union, protested against the protestors. Lindsay anticipated a greater police presence in the schools to address the crisis, the Times reported. The student and parent protests, while violent and disruptive, were an urgent response to rapidly segregating New York City public schools and their deteriorating physical conditions. Eastern District, the article noted, was 65 percent Puerto Rican and 25 percent black and bursting at its ancient seams with 3,080 students crammed into a building meant for 1,900. 15

Eight months later, the Times ran an article about the continuing “racial unrest and disorders” in the city’s schools. The superintendent had launched an “inquiry” intended to improve race relations between black and white students and “eradicate racial tension and hostility in the school neighborhoods.” The article detailed violent incidents at Wingate High in Brooklyn: a fifteen-year-old white student was slashed but uninjured, Molotov cocktails were planted in a gym locker, black students set off fire bombs in the cafeteria, and white students were beaten outside the school. Wingate, once “a model of integration,” the superintendent stated, became 70 percent black after rezoning sent black students from overcrowded schools in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville neighborhoods. “We’ve got to get back to the goal of integration,” the superintendent said. “It would be a shame to turn this into a segregated school.” 16

Washington, D.C.’s public schools likewise were gripped by racial turmoil and violence. In January 1969, the Washington Post reported the fatal shooting of an assistant principal at Cardozo High School by three teens who robbed the school’s safe. 17 In the fall, fights broke out between black and white students at several high schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In January 1970, the Post reported on the first death of a student in the D.C. schools, in an accidental shooting that occurred when two fifteen-year-olds at Hine Junior High were looking at a gun during lunchtime. The article noted that the two deaths were not connected, but called both “part of a pattern of violence that is afflicting many schools in Washington and other big cities.” A week later, the Post reported that racial fights had broken out at DuVal High after “racial tensions had been building for days,” and police arrested twenty-two students. The same day, the D.C. school administration announced the appointment of a new, full-time director of school safety. A day later, police were brought into the city’s public schools for the first time in their history, a move denounced by the teachers’ union president, who said, “You cannot dispense education under armed guard.” 18

School violence broke into the national news as an issue bedeviling the entire country when the media publicized a report on school violence from the U.S. Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency. The committee’s report, which was the first national study to name and examine school violence, surveyed 110 school districts around the country and found “sharp increases in specific categories of crime and violence.” The Dodd report, named for Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut, the committee’s chair, found that the number of homicides in those schools had increased from fifteen in 1964 to twenty-six in 1968. (Those figures are staggeringly high considering that they come from a fraction of all school districts; in 1999, the year of Columbine, the national total of school-related homicides was thirty-six.) A Times article about the Dodd report also stated that more schools were hiring private guards because of “such incidents, coupled with student disruptions and evidence of racial polarization at some schools.” The causes of school violence, the report claimed, were the same as those causing violence in general society: poverty, physical deterioration of housing and surroundings, racial and ethnic concentration, and high unemployment and high population density, among other factors. 19 A Post article stated that the Dodd report “said it was a myth that most of the violence was racially directed,” because most incidents “involved violence by whites against whites or Negroes against Negroes.” 20

The fact that a Senate study framed school violence primarily as crimes against property and persons, distinct from racial clashes and political protests, indicates how fearful government was of the era’s volatility. Fear of popular uprisings, especially among youth, wasn’t paranoia; it was logical. The confluence of black activism, campus protests, anti-war demonstrations, and urban riots shook the government to its core. But some observers saw the connections, if through a jaundiced, conservative lens. The Washington Post columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak wrote, a week before the Dodd report was released, that public high schools were becoming a “battleground” of racial turmoil. “No single high school disturbance has the magnitude of a Berkeley rebellion or a Watts riot to stir national imagination,” they said, but schools were becoming “the most violence-prone and divisive battleground of American society” as a “spontaneous reflection of national racial tensions and black militancy.” The duo listed a half-dozen incidents of “Negro students” assaulting white students, calling them examples of “a national blackboard jungle dominated by racial hatred.” The problem, Evans and Novak said, was not the influence of the Black Panthers or Students for a Democratic Society or any extremist groups. No, it was “the militancy now instilled in black youths,” which unless controlled would steel “middle-class white determination against racially integrated schools, North and South.” 21

Their analysis was skewed by bias, but the columnists were right about high schools: they were hotbeds of all kinds of activity, not simply the racial clashes Evans and Novak singled out. A study released around the same time as the Dodd report by the National School Public Relations Association, titled “High School Student Unrest,” found that “59 percent of high schools and 56 percent of junior highs had experienced some form of protest by January of last year.” 22 These public school protests did indeed mirror the college protests rocking campuses from Berkeley to Kent State to Columbia. In many cities and suburbs, high school students brought the spirit of protest inside the schoolhouse over the issues that were relevant to their lives and in ways that befitted their experience and circumstances. They walked out of classes as part of the nationally planned war moratorium of 1972. They protested dress codes as restrictions on their freedom of expression. Black students demanded black administrators and the inclusion of black history in their curricula. They staged walkouts when Reverend King was assassinated in 1968. In cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago, where poverty and segregation fostered racial unrest, school violence and disruptions were also manifested as crimes against property and people. Alienation from schools that didn’t speak to their experiences could spark a walkout or just plain vandalism. All of it, though, was a sign of the turbulent times.

In the early 1970s, racial segregation in the public schools was addressed in a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that built on the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Interestingly, desegregation and the busing plans that often accompanied it did not produce a new round of school violence among black and white students. The Boston example of pitched battles between white residents opposed to busing and proponents of integration was the exception, not the rule. In his 1978 study of busing, Gary Orfield noted that “while the fear of violence often plays a large role in local debates over desegregation plans, a recent Justice Department report indicates that desegregation seldom produces increases in school violence and even lowers the level when a local plan specifically addresses the problem...The Detroit school system had fewer racial incidents than before...students usually adjusted rapidly to desegregated schools, particularly at the elementary level. Most of the violence was among adults outside the school and it diminished aft er the transition.” 23

As the activism of the 1960s and early ’70s receded, different currents outside the schoolhouse came flowing through its doors: the economic downturn of the mid-1970s brought with it a bubble in violent and property crimes. Schools were now permanently fixed on the radar of government officials and bureaucrats as one locus of crime trends worthy of study. So, in 1978, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano released findings of a three-year study of school crime. And like so many government-financed studies of school violence to come, Califano’s report offered an odd mix of scary statistics and sobering perspective. Teenagers ran a greater risk of being robbed, assaulted, or otherwise becoming victims of violence at school than at any other time, the report stated. Yet Califano also offered that while the problem of school crime “remains extremely serious,” the study found vandalism and violence little changed from 1971 to 1976, with some improvement in urban areas. The HEW study also found, not surprisingly, that in communities where violence and crime were high, schools also had higher rates of violence and crime — and that held true in urban, rural, and suburban areas. 24 Despite the nuanced findings and clear connections between what occurred outside and inside the schoolhouse, the HEW report reflected an emerging consensus among policy makers: school violence was a growing social ill, distinct from crime in general, and that youth engaged in it were a breed apart. But the statistical jump in assaults and robberies was more a blip than a tsunami, and a relative increase could not reverse the fact that the overwhelming majority of students then, as now, were safe in school and faced a greater likelihood of harm at home or in their communities.

Superpredators and Students Gone Wild

The decade of the 1980s ushered in an entirely new era, as conservatism began its ascension to power in government and out. Ronald Reagan began his two-term presidency and initiated radical changes in social and economic policy. A crack-cocaine epidemic infected many cities around the country with an accompanying spike in violent crime through the early 1990s. Between 1984 and 1993, arrest rates for homicides more than doubled; aggravated assault arrests in 1992 were nearly double the 1980 rate. 25 The Reagan Administration made crime and drugs among its chief domestic and foreign policy issues, and school violence was part of the agenda.

In 1984, Attorney General Edwin Meese created the National School Safety Center to reduce crime and violence and improve discipline and attendance at schools. It was the first of what would be many public and private centers created around the country to address, study, prevent, and fix the problem — the seed of an embryonic school-violence industry, so to speak. The center was born in controversy, however, when Justice Department insiders leaked information to journalists that cast Meese’s actions in a different light. In a classic example of pork barrel spending, the $3.9 million grant went to George Nicholson, a close friend of the attorney general, to establish the center at Pepperdine University, which had received private donations from both Meese and Reagan that year. 26 Nothing came of the revelations and the NSSC exists today as a sort of clearinghouse.

Reagan also launched the War on Drugs, heralded with the Drug-Free America Act of 1986. With it came the “zero tolerance” approach to sentencing offenders of drug-related crimes. That year, Congress passed the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, a program within the Department of Education that has funneled roughly half a million dollars a year to states and localities to reduce drug use. Given the federal drumbeat and frightening statistics, it’s not surprising that the national preoccupation became violent crime, especially drug-related violent crime and the escalation of gun violence associated with drug trafficking. Here’s a measure of how dramatically crime came to dominate the public psyche: In 1982, 3 percent of adults surveyed in a national poll named crime and violence as the country’s main problems. By 1994, more than 50 percent did, and violence was named as the chief problem of public schools. 27 As shown by the statistics on reported incidents of violence and crime discussed below, the public fears of school violence and youth were disproportionate to any actual rise in the problem.

The Reagan years laid the foundation for the Lockdown High model. But it was during the Clinton administration, ironically, that the bricks and mortar of the school-as-prison theory and practice were applied to the problems of discipline and safety. Ironic both because Clinton was considered a liberal and because the actual incidence of school violence, as well as youth crime in general, was beginning to crest in 1992 — the year he took office. By then, though, the criminal justice system was on growth hormones, revved up by draconian laws from Congress and state legislatures that were filling the nation’s ever-growing prison system, mostly with offenders of drug-related crimes. Young offenders, especially, came into the crosshairs of legislators and prosecutors who were egged on by the widely quoted criminologists James Q. Wilson, John DiIulio, and James Alan Fox. Wilson used dubious population projections to forewarn of a “cloud that the winds will soon bring over us,” tens of thousands of juvenile thieves, muggers, and killers. DiIulio pumped up the hysteria with his own predictions of a new breed of young criminal, whom he dubbed the “superpredator.” And Fox jumped on the fearmongering bandwagon with warnings of a “blood bath” of juvenile crime. 28 Their concern was focused on a particular portion of the juvenile population — black and Latino males in urban settings — and their language revealed their not-so-subtle biases. The political response to the hype was not to prevent the supposed future crime wave. It was to crack down on youth. Between 1992 and 1995, forty-one states passed laws making it easier to prosecute juveniles in adult criminal court. (Today, all fifty states have such laws.) In more than half of the states, children younger than fourteen can be tried as adults for some crimes, and thirteen states have no minimum age for transferring a youth to adult court.

School violence, especially in urban areas, assumed a prominent place in the national fixation on juvenile crime. A 1993 New York Times article about New York City noted the “spread of guns and youth violence into schools.” The article mentioned a parent boycott to protest hallway violence in Eastern District High School — the same Brooklyn school that twenty-four years earlier was the site of protests by black and Puerto Rican students against perceived racism. 29 Over just one generation, the nature of school violence had morphed to reflect a different society outside the schoolhouse doors. The social protest and racial and ethnic rights movements of the 1960s and ’70s had faded. The crack-fueled drug wars of many urban areas sent violence and guns coursing through neighborhoods. Schools in those neighborhoods were not insulated from the dangers, and any news reports of crime in schools contributed to the public’s perception that young people and schools were dangerous — especially in cities. But there were no statistics at the time to prove it.

This time, the official response at every level — from school boards to state legislatures on up to the White House and Congress — matched the widespread fear of youth violence. In 1994, President Clinton took Reagan’s Drug Free Schools Act and went it one better, creating the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, adding violence-prevention funding to the agenda of the legislation. The same year, he signed the Gun Free Schools Act, which required states to enact their own zero tolerance laws for weapons possession by students, which would be punishable by mandatory expulsion. Clinton followed the law with a presidential directive that encouraged school districts to adopt policies requiring school uniforms for students as a way to reduce violence and promote discipline, and ordered the Department of Education (DOE) to distribute a uniforms manual. Clinton also initiated an annual report on school safety produced jointly by the DOE and the Department of Justice, called “Indicators of School Crime and Safety.” It was the first effort to collect data from schools nationally in order to track the actual incidence of crimes and violence. It has been published since 1998, with data on victimizations of students and teachers, discipline, and police actions, and its release usually prompts the news media to report key findings. Under Clinton, an entire multiagency, legislatively driven school violence and safety bureaucracy was elaborated with its requisite millions in annual public funding.

The White House set an agenda that reinforced and inflated the view that schools and students were out of control, as a political response to the public clamor about a perceived problem. At the local school district level, administrators and school boards responded to parent and teacher fears of violence and disruption, whether real or imagined. A 1995 survey by the American Federation of Teachers of school districts in two hundred of the largest U.S. cities indicated not only an entrenched and widespread fear of student violence, but also an embrace of a penal-system approach to the problem: 95 percent of respondents employed security personnel; 59 percent had metal detectors; and 53 percent had installed security cameras.

Johnny Got a Gun

This fear and loathing of student violence and disorderly schools could have come to a low simmer, ultimately evaporating, just as school crime and violence itself had been diminishing. After all, the downward trend was unmistakable for anyone who payed attention to those annual reports on school crime and safety. Mirroring the same decline in crime experienced in the general population, youth crime overall began to plummet after its apex in 1993. For youth homicides, the numbers are dramatic: from 1993 to 1998, juvenile homicide arrests dropped by 56 percent, reaching their lowest rate since the FBI began recording this statistic in 1964. 30 School crime echoed this trend: Between 1992 and 1998, the rate of nonfatal violent crimes for students ages twelve to eighteen dropped from 48 per 1,000 students, to 43 per 1,000. 31 From 1995 to 1999, the percentage of students in that age group who reported being victims of theft or violent crime decreased from 10 percent to 8 percent, a trend most prominent among middle-school students, who are often characterized as the most difficult. Over that same time span, students were feeling safer, with 5 percent in 1999 saying they avoided one or more places in their school, compared to 9 percent in 1995. 32 Even these small numbers suggest that the public’s view of schools as dangerous was out of proportion to the reality for 90 percent of students during those years with higher rates of reported incidents.

As for violent deaths at schools — the boogeyman of the school-violence nightmare — there simply is no real trend at all. In the 1992–1993 school year (the first year such data were collected) there were fifty- seven “school-associated deaths,” and that included thirty-four students killed by other students and six student suicides; the rest were teachers and other school employees. The total dipped over the next few years, and then reached fifty-seven again in 1997–1998. The 1998–1999 school year, the year of Columbine, would have had the lowest number of school deaths on record — twenty-five — but for the fifteen deaths in that tragic incident. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the DOE agency that copublishes the annual school crime and safety report, “Between July 1, 1992, and June 30, 1999, no consistent pattern of increase or decrease was observed in the number of homicides at school.” Indeed, each year’s report typically begins with a summary noting that students are safer at school than away from school. The 2000 report noted that students were less than half as likely to be victims of a violent crime at school than elsewhere. And the trend continued: in the 2003–2004 school year, young people were more than 50 times more likely to be murdered, and almost 150 times more likely to commit suicide, away from school. Schools, it seems, are a much safer haven than children’s homes and communities, and much safer than prevailing perceptions suggest. 33

So why didn’t school violence simply fade from the radar of legislators and the public? How could the reality of more than 50 million school kids be so completely at odds with public perception? The answer involves the combustible mix of race, geography, guns, and the news media, which in the late 1990s brought public fears to a boiling point. Falling rates of all categories of school crime and violence were simply drowned by the tsunami of news reporting on a series of shocking — and unquestionably rare — multiple school shootings in America’s rural and suburban redoubts. From 1997 to 1998, a string of incidents in which students fatally shot other students and teachers made headline news nationally. Coming in close succession over a seven-month period, each event inflated the growing public panic a bit more, until school violence was diagnosed as epidemic.

• On October 1, 1997, Luke Woodham, sixteen, of Pearl, Mississippi, stabbed his mother to death and then went to Pearl High School, where he shot and killed two students and wounded seven others with a rifle.

• On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, fourteen, took a .22-caliber handgun to Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, where he killed three students and wounded five who were part of a morning prayer group in the school lobby.

• On March 24, 1998, Mitchell Johnson, thirteen, and Andrew Golden, eleven, waited outside Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, with rifles, and killed four fellow students and one teacher after they exited the building for a fire alarm; Golden had pulled the alarm, and the boys retrieved the guns, which had been taken from his grandfather’s cabinet and hidden in nearby bushes.

• On May 21, 1998, Kipland Kinkle, fifteen, shot and killed his parents in Springfield, Oregon, and then went to Thurston High School, where he shot and killed two students and wounded twenty-one others.

The characteristics of the shooters and where they lived were key in pumping up the fears of school violence. All the shooters were white males living in rural and suburban communities. These were not John DiIulio’s Latino and black superpredators, living in urban centers. Those youths were “gangstas” and “thugs” who were expected to be violent and kill one another, in the view of many Americans. But how could such horrible things happen in Pearl or Jonesboro, asked a chorus of commentators. If it could happen there, then it could happen here in our community, came the answer. A poll conducted after the Jonesboro incident for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that 71 percent of those surveyed believed it likely or very likely a school shooting could happen in their community. 34 “I am struggling to make sense of the senseless, and to understand what could drive a teenager to commit such a terrible act,” said President Bill Clinton in a radio address after the Oregon shooting. Of course, school shootings were nothing new — recall that Washington, D.C., saw its first back in 1970. And during 1997–1998, there were other school shootings around the country. But the quick succession of these incidents, the greater number of wounded and fatalities, and the intense news media coverage of them combined to create the perception of epidemic school violence despite a very different reality.

When less than a year after the Springfield incident, another even more shocking school shooting occurred, it cemented public fears and misconceptions about school violence beyond the reach of reason. On April 20, 1999, eighteen-year-old Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, seventeen, conducted an assault on Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, a white, suburban, affluent enclave. Using semi-automatic guns procured at a Denver gun market and homemade explosive devices, they killed twelve students, one teacher, and then themselves within a half-hour. The death toll of fifteen, counting Harris and Klebold, was the highest of any school shooting. The news media, primed to cover Columbine because of the earlier string of incidents, mined every possible angle to create a dramatic parable of saints and sinners, good and evil. Every angle except two crucial ones: that school shootings were even rarer than ever, despite the brutal events at Columbine, and that it was easy access to automatic firearms that had given Harris and Klebold the ability to kill so many people so quickly. Even with Columbine’s terrible death toll, that school year had fewer student-on-student homicides than in 1992–1993.

In the wake of these incidents, elected officials scrambled to react with programs and policies to further penalize youthful offenders and to ratchet up zero tolerance disciplinary codes at the school level. Senators Orrin Hatch of Nevada and Jeff Sessions of Alabama introduced the Juvenile Crime Bill, designed to toughen sentencing of juvenile offenders, including elimination of the long-standing practice of separating incarcerated juveniles and adults. President Clinton held a conference on school violence, called for spending $60 million to hire thousands of police officers for schools, and announced a $12 million program called SERV — School Emergency Response to Violence — to help schools and communities cope with violent deaths. Clinton also asked Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit the sale of guns to violent juvenile offenders for life, a measure akin to closing the barn door after the cows have gone. This new breed of school shooter was more akin to a terrorist, the feds determined, and school violence should be elevated to the status of a national security threat. So post-Columbine, the Secret Service’s Threat Assessment Center was enlisted to study school shootings, producing the “Safe School Initiative” in 2002, which profiled the shooters — all males — who had carefully, not impulsively, planned their attacks, and who had easy access to guns (two thirds had taken guns from their homes or a relative’s). The two-year study also found that most shooters had exhibited behavior before their attacks that signaled their need for help, and bullying was a motivator in a number of incidents. The report concluded that there was no profile of a school shooter and that some attacks are preventable.

Each year since Columbine, the incidence of school crime and violence, including shooting deaths, has continued its downward trend, in lockstep with declining crime rates in society overall. Still, there have been several other high-profile incidents. On March 21, 2005, sixteen-year-old Jeff Weise, a Chippewa teen in Red Lake, Wisconsin, shot and killed nine people, including students at his school and relatives, and then committed suicide, using a gun he’d taken from home. News coverage invoked the specter of Columbine and quoted hand-wringing parents and school administrators worried about copycat shootings. The National Rifle Association offered its solution: let teachers have guns. In fall of 2006, the two previously cited incidents in Colorado and then Pennsylvania involving adult men invading schools and taking students hostage again invoked fears of Columbines erupting around the country. President George W. Bush responded like his predecessor did. He held a conference on school violence, even though neither incident was initiated by students. Pennsylvania legislators responded by revisiting a gun-control bill that had just been defeated.

President Bush continued the trajectory initiated by Bill Clinton of legislating punitive approaches to school security. His No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 continued the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program. One new provision required state and local education agencies to identify “persistently dangerous” schools, as defined by their own standards. Such schools risked losing funding and students. But early reports on this requirement showed state standards and definitions of violence varying wildly, with some schools reporting every push and shove, while others ignored serious incidents to avoid penalties. The provision also provided grants for drug prevention education, drug testing, purchase of metal detectors, and security guards. Funding was also available for conflict resolution and peer mediation education, but overall funding levels dropped after 2003 — except for drug testing in schools. For a Republican administration that made accountability a cornerstone of its education policy, the Bush White House was no different from its predecessor in doling out funds without requiring measurable results from millions spent on drug abuse or safe schools efforts.

The only attempts to evaluate the Safe and Drug Free Schools program, which is now more than twenty years old, were undertaken during the Clinton years, and findings were dismal. A review by the criminal justice professor Lawrence W. Sherman for the Brookings Institute in 2000 called the program “symbolic pork” that Congress supports in order to show concern for a problem that constituents are worried about, regardless of effectiveness. “Since 1986, this program has given more than $6 billion to some fifteen thousand local school districts and fifty state governors to spend largely at their own discretion,” Sherman wrote. “No evidence shows that this half-billion-dollar-per-year program has made schools any safer or more drug-free...Both the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office have tried to kill this program. Yet both Republican and Democratic presidents have joined with opposition parties in Congress to keep the program alive.” 35 The public’s willingness to swallow symbolic pork instead of clamoring for meatier programs is evident in a lengthy investigative article published by the Los Angeles Times on the Safe and Drug Free Schools program, perhaps the only such journalistic examination by a national newspaper. Published after a year of high-profile school shootings in Oregon and Kentucky, the article found “gaping holes in government attempts to ensure safe schools,” formed by often bizarre expenditures of safe-schools funds. “In Richmond, Virginia, where a ninth grader shot and wounded a basketball coach and a teacher’s aide two days before school let out in June, state education officials spent $16,000 to publish a drug-free party guide that recommends staging activities such as Jell-O wrestling and pageants “where guys dress up in women’s wear,” wrote the reporter, Ralph Frammolino. He also found that “taxpayer dollars paid for motivational speakers, puppet shows, tickets to Disneyland, resort weekends and a $6,500 toy police car. Federal funds also are routinely spent on dunking booths, lifeguards and entertainers, including magicians, clowns and a Southern beauty queen, who serenades students with pop hits.” In one of his most disturbing discoveries, he wrote that months before the middle school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, by two adolescent boys, local officials used some of the safe-schools funding to hire a magician to perform in the school. 36 

School violence as now understood and experienced is not a new phenomenon, but part of a continuum that stretches back in time. The particular safety and discipline challenges schools and students face have shifted as conditions outside the schoolhouse have changed. Guns are the most threatening part of the equation, and as long as children and teens have ready access to them, lethal violence will always be with us, in schools and out. While the vast majority of public schools continue to be safe — safer than students’ own homes or neighborhoods in many cases — addressing disruptive behavior and safety issues will always be part of the educational process. The question is how those issues are approached, and at the end of the twentieth century, the answer was the criminal justice model that has so dramatically shaped society. It’s small wonder. When prisons are built faster than new schools as a solution to social and economic problems, a penal approach to school violence of any magnitude appears as the logical fix even if there is little evidence that it works to make schools and students safer. Parents, educators, and communities that should have known better were willing to follow in lockstep as politicians and so-called experts began the crackdown on students. Every choice to adopt another punitive measure — policing, surveillance, metal detectors, zero tolerance rules — has turned students into suspects, and moved the schoolhouse further down the slippery slope to the jailhouse.


1. Jonathan Messerli, Horace Mann (New York: Knopf, 1972), p. 373.

2. David Nasaw, Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 75; Michael B. Katz, The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 164.

3. Cited in Ira Katznelson and Margaret Weir, Schooling for All (New York: Basic Books, 1985), pp. 68–69; from a Chicago Board of Education member, quoted in Edith Abbot, Truancy and Non-Attendance in Chicago’s Schools (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1917), p. 85.

4. Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education: The National Experience, 1783–1876 (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 395.

5. Cited in Stuart G. Noble, A History of American Education (NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1954), pp. 513–14.

6. Warren Burton, The District School as It Was (Boston: Carter, Hendee and Co., 1833), pp. 25–26, 46.

7. “My School-Boy Days in New York City Forty Years Ago,” in New York Teacher and American Educational Monthly, March 1869.

8. Loulie Ayer Beall, “A Webster County School,” Nebraska History 33, July–Sept. 1942, p. 200.

9. I. L. Kephart, “Barring Out the Teacher,” in Asa Earl Martin and Hiram Herr Shenk, eds., Pennsylvania History Told by Contemporaries (New York: MacMillan Company, 1925), pp. 393–96.

10. Richard V. McCann, Delinquency: Sickness or Sin? (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), p. ix.

11. Martin H. Neumeyer, Juvenile Delinquency in Modern Society (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1949, 1955), p. 3.

12. McCann, Delinqency, p. 55.

13. Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency (New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1950).

14. D. J. R. Bruckner, “Daley Loosed a Terror That Won’t Go Away,” Los Angeles Times, reprinted in Washington Post, April 21, 1968.

15. Charles G. Bennett, “Lindsay Moves to Thwart Rising School Violence,” New York Times, March 11, 1969, p. 37.

16. Leonard Buder, “Study Opens Here on School Unrest,” New York Times, Nov. 8, 1969.

17. Marin Weil, “Teachers Demand Steps to End School Violence,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 1969, p. A1.

18. Lawrence Feinberg, “Slain Student 1st Killed in D.C. Schools,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 1970, p. A5; Douglas Watson, “22 Students Held in DuVal Clash” and “D.C. Schools to Get Director of Safety,” Washington Post, Jan. 13, 1970.

19. Wayne King, “Schools Hire Own Guards as Violence Rises Sharply,” New York Times, Jan. 12, 1970.

20. UPI, “Study Cites Surge In School Violence,” Washington Post, Jan. 13, 1970.

21. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “High Schools Becoming Battlefield of the Racial Turmoil in America,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 1970, p. 19.

22. King, “Schools Hire Own Guards as Violence Rises Sharply.”

23. Gary Orfield, Must We Bus? Segregated Schools and National Policy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1978), p. 127, citing a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ben Holman to Senators Edward Brooke and Jacob Javits, June 10, 1976, and reprinted in Congressional Record, June 26, 1976, p. S10708–11.

24. Austin Scott, “11 Per Cent Seen Victims of Theft in High Schools,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 1978.

25. Franklin E. Zimring, American Youth Violence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 32.

26. Mary Thornton, “News Leaks Are Hunted in Justice: 3 Employees Quizzed About Meese Stories,” Washington Post, June 7, 1984.

27. K. Maguire and A. L. Pastore, eds., Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics—1995, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), cited in “Violence in American Schools: An Overview,” in Delbert S. Elliot, Beatrix A. Hamburg, and Kirk R. Williams, eds., Violence in American Schools: A New Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 9.

28. Zimring, American Youth Violence, pp. 49–50.

29. Sam Dillion, “On the Barricades Against Violence in the Schools; As Fears Over Security Grow, New York’s School Safety Force Struggles to Keep Up,” New York Times, Dec. 24, 1993.

30. Kim Brooks, Vincent Schiraldi, and Jason Ziedenberg, “School House Hype: Two Years Later,” Justice Policy Institute/Children’s Law Center, 2000, p. 6.

31. U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2002,” p. 4; nonfatal violent crimes include assault, robbery, sexual assault, and rape.

32. Ibid., pp. 8, 34.

33. U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2006,” p. 6. The defi nition of school associated deaths includes students killed going to and from school or to a school-sponsored event, unintentional firearm deaths, such as a gun accidentally discharging, and students or school employees killed by a police officer at a school.

34. Brooks, Schiraldi, and Ziedenberg, “School House Hype,” p. 4.

35. Lawrence W. Sherman, “The Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program,” Brookings Papers on Educational Policy, 2000.

36. Ralph Frammolino, “Failing Grade for Safe Schools Plan,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 1998.

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