31 January 2013

School Violence

Filed under: Culture — ktismatics @ 2:29 pm

Of course Sandy Hook was a tragedy. It was also an anomaly. According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics:

During the school year 2008–09 there were 1,579 homicides among school-age youth ages 5–18, of which 17 occurred at school. During the 2008 calendar year, there were 1,344 suicides of youth ages 5–18, of which 7 occurred at school. I.e., school is a lot safer than not-school for kids.

“Violent victimizations” include simple assault, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. The rate of nonfatal violent victimizations of 12-18 year olds occurring at school declined from 55 per 1,000 in 1994 to 14 per thousand in 2010. I.e., schools are a lot safer now than they were 20 years ago.

Based on national data, homicide victims are disproportionately male, young, poor, and black. So are the perpetrators. So are prison inmates. I’m all for tough gun laws and tight school security, but the US incarceration rate has doubled over the past 20 years and quintupled over the past half-century. Drugs are regarded as a “gateway crime,” presumably leading to more serious infractions, and so a lot of poor kids get thrown in jail for possession as a preventive measure. No doubt the new tough-on-guns stance will result in more locker searches, more pat-downs, more busts for firearm possession even when no other crime is being committed. Almost certainly those arrested and sent to jail/detention in this new crackdown will, once again, be disproportionately male, poor, and black. But it’s certainly a cheaper solution than more and better schools, housing, jobs…



  1. Other than the occasional sports event, the only TV shows I watch are Breaking Bad and Justified. Both are cops-and-criminals shows focusing mostly on persistent and shrewd drug kingpins and the persistent and shrewd lawmen who are trying to bring them down. In these programs there isn’t much emphasis on routine drug-taking or on some guy who gets mad at his girlfriend and just shoots her, etc. Looking at the listings it seems that practically all of the TV dramas are about cops and criminals. I watched a couple of them last week: both involved some sort of brilliant secretive high-SES psycho-killer who attacks seemingly random targets; in both the cases were solved by brilliant but troubled cops and their psychologist sidekicks. Guys like the Sandy Hook shooter are more fascinating, more exciting, more spectacular, more commanding of attention by the public and the politicians than are the run-of-the-mill criminals and the bleak socio-economic conditions in which they’re embedded.


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 February 2013 @ 9:18 am

  2. A good NYTimes article on the adverse effects of high incareration rate and long prison sentences here.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 February 2013 @ 6:25 am

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