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Schools and Crime - The Perpetrators

students victims cities percent

Although we lack self-report data from perpetrators, victims of school crime have been able to provide some descriptive information about perpetrators because, especially with violent offenses, victims have close and memorable contacts with those who prey on them. Conclusions about offenders, based on victim reports, include the following:

  1. The majority of perpetrators of violent school crimes are recognized by their victims. This suggests that most of the offenders are fellow students, not intruders from the outside community. However, when the victims of school crime in large cities are considered separately, the majority of the perpetrators are unknown to the victims, partly because of the anonymity of large urban schools where even enrolled students attend irregularly and partly because intruders contribute significantly to school violence in large cities. Intruders are not much older, on the average, than students, as nearly as the victims can judge.
  2. A greater proportion of the violence directed at teachers than at students is committed by intruders, especially in inner-city schools. Parents and other relatives of students are a special category of intruder and are responsible for some assaults on teachers and other staff members.
  3. The bulk of the perpetrators of school crime are male youths.
  4. An appreciable portion of the robberies and assaults of both teachers and students (about 25%) is perpetrated by groups of three or more offenders.
  5. The majority of perpetrators of school violence in large cities in the 1979 study were identified by the teacher and student victims as black males, even though in the twenty-six cities surveyed, blacks comprised only 29 percent of the general school population at that time.
  6. According to student reports in the 1995 survey, only 0.1 of 1 percent of male students (and virtually no female students) said that they brought guns to school. However, more than 12 percent of the students of both sexes said that they knew students who brought guns to school and about half that number actually saw a student with a gun in school. Public schools in the central cities had considerably more guns than private schools or public schools outside of central cities, as might be expected.
  7. The School Crime Supplements to the National Crime Victimization Survey of 1989 and 1995 went beyond victimization questions to ask respondents about bringing weapons to school themselves as well as knowledge of other students who brought them. But apart from the weapons questions, this large-scale survey, like the other earlier school victimization surveys, avoided asking student respondents self-report questions about their own rule violations or criminal behavior.
  8. Only about 40 percent of sixth-grade students reported in both 1989 and 1995 that illegal drugs are readily available in their schools, but by the seventh grade a majority report easy availability of illegal drugs, and the proportion rises monotonically until the twelfth grade, where it exceeds 80 percent. These same studies reported more violent victimizations in junior high schools than in senior high schools. Drug availability and violence do not necessarily go hand in hand.
  9. According to teacher unions and the reports of big-city boards of education, 5 to 10 percent of enrolled students produce almost all of the violence. If indeed a small proportion of the student population is responsible for the school crime problem, identifying such troublemakers and putting them into special schools or special programs could make all schools safe (Shanker).
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