After hearing news of school shootings or other violence, it's natural for students — no matter how old they are or where they go to school — to worry about whether this type of incident may someday happen to them.
When a tragedy like this happens, it's normal to feel sad and anxious, and to want to make sense of the situation.
It's actually safer to be in school than in a car. Twice as many 15- to 19-year-olds die in car accidents than in shootings (and that's all shootings, not just the ones that happen in schools). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 1% of all homicides among school-age kids happen on school grounds or on the way to or from school. So the vast majority of students will never experience violence at school.
Still, some schools have re-evaluated their safety needs in response to the concerns of families and communities. Some now require that guests check in at the office or have more guards on duty. Some schools have installed metal detectors.
Another thing that helps make schools safer is greater awareness of problems like bullying and discrimination. Many schools have started programs to fight these problems and to help teachers and administrators know more about protecting students from this type of behavior.
School violence isn't easy to understand. There is no single reason why students become violent. Some are just following behavior they've seen at home, on the streets, or in video games, movies, or television. Sometimes, people who turn violent are victims of teasing who've hit a limit and feel like they would do anything to make it stop. They may feel isolated and rejected by their peers. These are only a couple of the reasons why a person may become violent.
There's one thing experts do agree on, though: Having access to guns or other weapons makes it easier for some people to lash out against the things or people they don't like.
Someone on the verge of violence may display warning signs. These can include:
If you start feeling unsafe at school, talk to a trusted adult. That person could be a teacher, parent, school counselor, or religious leader. It can be difficult to report violence — after all, we are taught not to tell on others.
But many schools have set up ways to report bullying or the possibility of violence anonymously. Maybe your school has (or could set up) an anonymous hotline for people to share concerns without worrying that they may be found telling on another student.
If you've witnessed or experienced violence of any kind, not talking about it can make feelings build up inside and cause problems. There's even a condition, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that can develop in someone who has lived through a traumatic event, such as a serious car accident, physical or sexual abuse, or a shooting.
You don't have to be hurt to experience PTSD — for some people, simply watching a traumatic event or being threatened with great physical harm is enough to trigger it. That's why it's important to get help. School counselors can be a good place to start — they're familiar with the issues in your school and can help you put things in perspective.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015
|Join Together Join Together, a collaboration of the Boston University School of Public Health and The Partnership at Drugfree.org, is a national resource for communities working to reduce substance abuse and gun violence.|
|Tolerance.org Tolerance.org encourages people from all walks of life to fight hate and promote tolerance.|
|National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) NCPC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent crime and build safer, more caring communities.|
|Stop Bullying This U.S. government website offers valuable resources for kids and adults on bullying awareness, prevention, and intervention.|
|National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC) NYVPRC was established as a central source of information on prevention and intervention programs, publications, research, and statistics on violence committed by and against children and teens.|
|Self-Defense Many people think of self-defense as a karate kick to the groin or jab in the eyes of an attacker. But self-defense is actually about using your smarts — not your fists.|
|Someone at School Has a Weapon. What Should I Do? If you suspect that someone is bringing a weapon to school or threatening someone else's life, it requires immediate attention. This article offers some tips on getting help.|
|Terrorism Terrorist attacks cause sadness, fear, anxiety, and anger. Find out how to cope.|
|About Getting and Giving Help Sharing problems can help us cope better. Get ideas on reaching out for (and offering) help in this article for teens.|
|Dealing With Bullying Bullying has everyone worried, not just the people on its receiving end. Learn about dealing with bullies, including tips on how to stand up for yourself or a friend.|
|School Counselors School counselors can give you all sorts of tips and support on solving problems and making good decisions. But how do you meet with a counselor and what is it like? Find out here.|
|Rape Rape is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. Rape is about power, not sex. Both men and women of any age can be raped. Find out what you can do and how to take care of yourself after a rape.|
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