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Schools and Crime - The Effects Of School Crime

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An obvious effect of school crime is a fear reaction from persons who study or work in school buildings. Although crime is a problem in the neighborhoods from which students, teachers, and other staff members come, it seems worse in the schools, especially in the case of violent offenses. This is partly because members of the school community must expose themselves daily to whatever threats exist, since their obligations require their presence in the school. In response, teachers, students, and parents urge boards of education to allocate funds for collective protection: for security guards, for intercoms to facilitate the summoning of help, and for related technological resources. Thus, another effect of school crime is to increase the cost of operating the school system. Less measurable than the additional expense is the reduced morale of students, teachers, and staff members exposed to personal danger and potential theft. As a result, schools with serious crime problems have difficulty in retaining students and teachers. Parents enroll their children elsewhere—in parochial, private, charter, and suburban schools. The loss of students is a serious problem because those students who transfer tend to be more educationally oriented and consequently their departure lowers the academic standards of the schools they leave. But the loss of experienced, effective teachers is worse. Additionally, substitutes are difficult to recruit in a low-morale, high-crime school (Archibold).

Since school crime is concentrated in public schools, one of its effects is to contribute to dissatisfaction with public education. This dissatisfaction is partly a direct consequence of crime—parents dislike sending their children to unsafe schools—and partly an indirect consequence: it is more difficult to maintain order in schools with high crime rates, and disorder means that students do not learn as much. A study of students at more than a thousand public, parochial, and private high schools throughout the United States revealed that students at public high schools learned less on the average than students at parochial and private schools (Coleman, Hoffer, and Kilgore). The study attributed this difference to the less orderly atmosphere in public schools, which had more truancy, more cutting of classes. Thus, school crime contributes to dissatisfaction with the public schools by making the schools more expensive and by creating a disorderly, fear-ridden atmosphere that undermines academic achievement.

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