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What parents don't know about school violence

By law, schools are required to report violent incidents and states are required to make that information public. Few states are following this mandate.

By Carol Lloyd

In the aftermath of yet another agonizing, senseless school shooting, it’s impossible not to ask how can we prevent this from ever happening again. Some will look to the gun control laws, others to school safety measures or anti-bullying programs and still others to making sure mentally unstable individuals get the social services that can keep them on this side of sanity.

Although school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary are rare and don’t follow any particular pattern, they naturally make parents more vigilant about school safety issues in general. Safety isn’t an amenity or a plus: it’s a precondition for learning.

Studies show that when children feel threatened, both their academic performance and emotional health suffer. Stress hormones impair kids’ neurological development, and they are literally unable to learn in the same way.

School violence: parents' right to know

What most parents don’t know is that there are laws mandating that schools report incidences of violence, crime, expulsion, and even bullying, and every state is required to make that data publically available on a school-by-school basis.

Unfortunately, this is one of the many areas that states and schools have ignored about No Child Left Behind laws. Each school is charged with using federal funding to establish a plan for keeping that school safe and drug free. Yet according to GreatSchools data researchers, few states have readily available online resources for this information.

The following states and districts publish school-safety data. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s worth contacting your state department of education to find out when they plan on following the law!

  • Florida Department of Education
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Michigan Department of Education
  • Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (school profiles include incident reports)

 

is the executive editor of GreatSchools and mother to two raucous daughters, ages 9 and 13.

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