The United States’ high school system has been plagued by an increasing number of violent incidents especially the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, involving the deaths of 14 persons and injuries to 24 others, and the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 when South Korean student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 persons injured many more.
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The first cause of violence comprises School and Peer Risk factors. Poor academic performance of a student is the first reason. Students who obtain below-average marks tend to be frustrated and jealous of others who fare better. The second reason is participation as members in cliques. The clique or gang mentality forces students to engage in antisocial group activities even if they secretly disapprove of such actions. The third reason is treatment of students as social pariahs by peers. The rejection sparks inferior complex feelings in the victims. The fourth reason is student involvement with delinquent peers. Normal students tend to imitate the behavioral techniques of such delinquent students. The last reason is little or non-association with the high school’s conventional activities including sports. Students who do not display sufficient interest in sports, or who do not properly respect sporting stars may become targets of fanatic sport supporters (CDC).
The second cause comprises Individual Risk factors. Use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco is the foremost reason. The second reason is an unfavorable record of treatment for emotional difficulties, violence involvement or victimization. The third reason is possession of a low IQ and a below-average information assimilation capability. The fourth reason is an unfavorable record of violent behavior and poor behavioral management. The fifth reason is subscribing to beliefs and attitudes that are hostile and do not conform to accepted behavioral standards. The last reason is regular experiencing scenes of violence, disagreement and tension within the family (CDC).
The third cause consists of Family Risk Factors. The first reason is faulty childrearing brought about by very strict or too lenient attitude of parents, indifference or poor parental involvement, monitoring and overseeing activities (CDC) especially concerning viewing violent movies , listening to ‘dark’ music , or playing violent video games (Wikipedia.org). The second is a low education level of parents that prevents them from properly understanding correct childrearing techniques. The third reason is low parental income that prevents the family from having the basic amenities needed to enjoy a reasonably good standard of living. The last reason is parental addiction to alcohol, tobacco, drugs (CDC) or other vices like gambling and indulging in extramarital sex.
Community Risk Factors comprise the fourth cause. The first reason is social disorganization and an excessive number of low income residents in the community. The second reason is a low amount of community participation. The third reason is the bad example set by a large number of family break-ups in the community. The last reason is a high tendency of people to take up temporary residence in the community (CDC).
The first remedy to conquer the effects of violence in U.S high schools is implementing stricter rules in schools that, based on an absolute zero tolerance to weapons and menacing behavior, threaten harsh punishment or banishment for those found guilty of perpetrating violence in schools; such rules should invariably include a total ban on cliques and practices associated with them. The second remedy is to increase the presence of high school counselors to identify and control would-be violence instigators. The third remedy is for parents to take more interest in children activities, both scholarly as well as extra curricular. The fourth remedy is to implement a radical change in U.S. gun politics. Firearms are easily available all over the country, even to those who are not supposed to possess them. Students seeking sensational outlets to their violent feelings find it easy to buy guns to carry out their crimes with impunity. A chilling example is Seung-Hui Cho, who caused the Virginia Tech massacre. Although declared mentally unstable two years earlier, Cho was able to easily purchase two semi-automatic pistols to perpetrate the massacre. The incident caused Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to pass an executive order meant to end differences between U.S. federal and state law that permitted Cho to buy the handguns.
A whopping $158 billion is spent by the U.S each year in direct and indirect costs related to youth violence (CDC). Quick and effective remedies on all fronts – the school, the family and the government’s gun politics – are urgently needed if schools are to be restored to what they are supposed to be: hallowed houses of learning and all-round development of students meant to be groomed into responsible future citizens upholding the grand tradition of the world’s leading nation, the United States of America.
“Columbine High School Massacre”. 2007.
“Virginia Tech Massacre”. 2007.
“Youth Violence: Fact Sheet”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2007. Web.