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School Violence: Gangs and a Culture of Fear

NCJ Number
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Volume: 567 Issue: Special Issue Dated: January 2000 Pages: 54-71
Douglas E. Thompkins
Alan W. Heston
Date Published
18 pages
Recent media coverage of isolated acts of violence committed by students on school property has increased concern about school violence; reports documenting higher levels of school violence in the face of a general decline in crime rates, together with several high profile cases, have resulted in a reactive and preventive security response.
Congress has passed several initiatives aimed at reducing levels of school violence. Gangs and gang activity in schools are often linked to increased levels of school violence, but little explanation has been offered for this increase. Greater security measures have been adopted by school administrators in response to the problem. While these may reduce levels of school violence in some communities, they can also help to perpetuate a culture of fear that has been created by intense media coverage of such violence. The presence of security officers, metal detectors, and security cameras may deter some students from committing acts of violence, but they also cause heightened fear among students and teachers, and they increase the power of some gangs and the perceived need of some students to join gangs. A successful program at a middle school in Austin, Texas, to reduce gang violence is described. 32 references and 8 figures