School Violence is Decreasing.
March 5, 2001 8:37 PM   Subscribe

School Violence is Decreasing. After noticing the number of people "glad not to be in high school" due to school violence, I felt the need to point this out. My theory is that people care more because it's *white people* who are being killed, as rural/suburban school massacres seem to be the trend du jour. Apologies for the link source, but this was the first version of the AP wire I could find.
posted by Kevs (19 comments total)
This should probably have gone in the school shooting thread. Good conversation there.
posted by pnevares at 8:57 PM on March 5, 2001

I've been hearing similar statistics for years now. Youth violence is down. Overall violent crime rates are down, too. Too bad the mainstream media doesn't see fit to report these things. If nobody dies, it's not news.

After today's school shooting, you'll no doubt hear pundit after pundit talk about the problem of "increased violence in our schools". And since this study (and others like it) will be de-facto censored by the press, nobody will be the wiser.
posted by Potsy at 8:59 PM on March 5, 2001

>My theory is that people care more because it's *white people* who are being killed,<

I think it goes beyond that. drivebys are horrific, but there's a *reason* for them (however lame), and people who are killed are either other gang members or innocent bystanders.

there's a difference in the idea of someone planning to go into a school and randomly shoot *whoever happens to be there*. a premeditated act that's based on....nothing. just some kid who flips and decides that the answer is to go an shoot whoever happens to be in the school at the time.

there's also a perception that it's rough in the inner city and that it's safe in the suburbs: that's why people who can afford it move there.

so, expectations get turned around. it's unexpected and unpredictable. with gang-related shootings it seems like the risk is present, just because of neighborhood conditions.

both kinds of murders are horrible, obviously. but in one place, there seems to be a present risk; in the other, there's no perceptable risk at all, and then BOOM, with no warning another kid flips out.

I've heard it said that at this point inner city schools are pretty safe; there are safety measures in place, and the kids who are still *in* school don't want danger there; they have enough of that on the streets and in their neighborhoods. those who are prone to violence have long since left school altogether. I don't know if that's true.

I also heard someone posit that one of the differences is that that suburban kids identify heavily with their schools; that disillusioned inner city kids reject school and point their anger elsewhere, at least somewhere *somewhat* more specific.

just throwing that all out there to think about.

posted by rebeccablood at 9:01 PM on March 5, 2001

Please clue me in to the rural school shootings. Or do you have any idea what you're talking about? I heard about a minor incident in Texas, but otherwise all have been in suburban or decidedly suburbanish areas (and in the latter case, I am thinking only of Jonesboro, Ark., which is not classified as a rural area by any U.S. standard).
posted by raysmj at 9:07 PM on March 5, 2001

rcb: drivebys are horrific, but there's a *reason* for them

I think the reason behind a gang-related drive-by and a surburban school shooting are the same: to kill someone. In both circumstances, one person shoots a gun at the other, but in the first you've got all those overly stereotyped concepts (gang-related, drive-by, inner-city,etc).
posted by Neb at 9:20 PM on March 5, 2001

>In both circumstances, one person shoots a gun at the other, but in the first you've got all those overly stereotyped concepts (gang-related, drive-by, inner-city,etc).<

all right, I'd like to learn more about this. give me some facts about inner city school shootings. were they *not* mostly gang-related? I was under the impression they were, but then I was getting my information from major media sources.

posted by rebeccablood at 10:18 PM on March 5, 2001

There is one word that relates to both sets of violence; retaliation.

The vast majority of kids in our country are safe. Those that are contemplating violence as a solution for their problems were marginalized long before they decided upon a gun as the best or only answer for the pain in their lives. The media is undeniably fascinated with white on white juvenile crime, but the problem really is not color or neighborhood as much as isolation that sometimes forces the children towards inappropriate solutions for what ails them.

Remember, the majority of youth crime occurs between 3-7 PM.

posted by Sqwerty at 10:53 PM on March 5, 2001

I'm glad I'm not in high school because of the administration's continuing freaking paranoia. God. They scare me. I'm probably paranoid and read too much Kafka, but still.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2001

I always figured we see these shootings rather than the inner city variety because the shooter's usually some "fairly normal kid who goes fucking insane." Don't white people tend to go nuts and shoot up the place more than other races? Although, if anybody would like to argue that blacks are underrepresented in crime media, that'd be pretty entertaining...

Oh, and i like that this post didn't go in the Shooting discussion. So many people are clueless and think the world is falling apart.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:53 AM on March 6, 2001

dagnyscott: You can never read too much Kafka.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:38 AM on March 6, 2001

Or do you have any idea what you're talking about?

Well, that's and unneccesary tone to take, raysmj. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the barnyard today?
posted by jpoulos at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2001

No, don't even live in a rural area, thanks, although I grew up in a small town. Tired of seeing the "rural/urban" thing applied to school shootings, because it isn't true. And not only is its being not true enough to warrant its not being repeated again, it harms any serious dicussion of serious solutions to the problem. If you really look into the matter, I think you'd find that the areas in question have much in common, and not necessarily their being suburban. They've all been rather newish, or newly built-up, places or suburbs in a transition of sorts.

Putting "rural" in just makes also rather conveniently sound like "oh, this is all happening outside of the central cities, which are more heavily white" and usually the focus of attention regarding youth violence. But that's misleading, if not just outright unethical to say. Pearl, Miss., where the first school shooting occurred, is much more heavily white than the vast majority of mostly rural Mississippi, without question.

Finally, rural schools are usually smaller. Smaller schools, if you'll check, have not tended to have much violence. So there may be a larger high school, or student-to-teacher-ratio connection as well.
posted by raysmj at 6:08 PM on March 6, 2001

we see these shootings rather than the inner city variety because the shooter's usually some "fairly normal kid who goes fucking insane."

In other words, we see these shootings because it plays to the demographic, a demographic which perceives these white kids to be "normal", i.e. "like us".
posted by sudama at 6:43 PM on March 6, 2001

raysmj, I have no idea what your second paragraph above means. You're saying that when we say "rural" we mean "white"? But then you say that Pearl, MS is very white...I'm utterly lost.

The only reference to "rural" in this thread was Kevs' "rural/suburban school massacres seem to be the trend du jour", which he used to differentiate the shootings from urban ones. Semantics aside, Jonesboro AK and Pearl MS are a very long way from LA and NYC, and I think most people would characterize them as "rural".

I don't understand why you're getting so huffy about it?
posted by jpoulos at 7:17 PM on March 6, 2001

jpoulos: The media started the "suburban/rural shootings" thing, so I was kinda hacked at a media/policy issue network abstraction, not yourself. As for being sorta miffed . . . it's a serious problem, right? Sorry, but don't take it personally!

Re the latest note . . . Jonesboro and Pearl are a long way from LA and NYC, but they're certainly not that far from Littleton. (Pearl's high school is also very large, which as I suggested may be more significant -- I don't know.) It also has plenty in common with L.A. suburbs in the sense that L.A. defined what the suburbs were for so long, and maybe still does. NYC is still the odd city out in this category as regards the typical American experience.

The media reports the "suburban/rural" bit merely because reporters presume most people associate youth violence with central cities, be they in places such as LA and New York, or smaller places such as Jackson, Miss. (of which Pearl is a suburb and which is majority black) or New Orleans or what have you. Politicians repeat the lie because it sounds agreeable.

One more time. Suburban/rural equals "the rest of America," in code, in media reports. But that's misleading, lazy and wrong, and lends nothing to a greater understanding of what's going on or might be going on. (Oh, and the media BS has been reflected in government reports, no matter how scientific or humanitisic they appear, and critical of crowd-pleasing reporting.)
posted by raysmj at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2001

Pearl, just for the record, is most definitely a suburb, and would be by anyone's definition if they could get either a) a look at the place and learn a bit about it, then consult any sociologist with a PhD from an accredited university or b) a look at its demographics. A look at the demographics of areas surrounding Pearl (but outside of the adjoining suburbs) would show it to be startlingly different than those as well. Jonesboro is, furthermore, a small and relatively affluent city which has built up in recent years around a growing university, Arkansas State.

Just because a few of their residents go on TV and talk about how everybody is all "good people," etc., and with southern accents doesn't mean they're living in rural areas. They were probably raised in them, but . . .
posted by raysmj at 8:24 PM on March 6, 2001

One other quickie: Pearl is almost 100 percent white. Rural areas in the Deep South are generally not. If you'll check, by the way, Mississippi in particular is 39 percent African-American. Many of its small towns have more in common, in re to racial demographics, with the central cities of Jackson and, heck, Los Angeles than with suburban Pearl.
posted by raysmj at 8:56 PM on March 6, 2001

My understanding is that the deep rural south is rather a different world from the rest of the country. Granted, this understanding is based on a) murky references to an acquaintance's childhood b) breathless impressions of a friend's visit and c) an episode of e.r. {shrug} -- but it seems to me that there must be some truth to my notions.At the risk of painting a distorted, stereotypical picture, I'll say that I think in some cases we're talking about homes with dirt floors and no running water -- I'm told it resembles the Third World more than the First.

Finally (and this is more speculation) I would be surprised of the largest portion of America's TV audience didn't describe itself as suburban rather than urban or rural -- does anyone have any numbers on this?
posted by sudama at 1:21 AM on March 7, 2001

Yes, the rest of the country is rural. And the E.R. episode had Biloxi, Miss., a coastal town with people whose accents sound more like those of New Orleanians than the regular Deep South variety (think Brooklyn), sound like the ready-for-CMT type. They had it confused with the Miss. Delta, where a lot of people do have dirt floors. But the latter's a severe case. (I'd argue that the whole rural/urban split -- the lumping all rural areas together as one, greatly hurts that area, whose people need assistance probably more than the worst inner cities, since the latter are at least not isolated.) I thought it pretty hilarious. Not a big E.R. fan anyway, since I have bad memories of hospitals, which by the way did use modern anaesthetic!

The South is different, for certain, but much the same in re to national land use patterns, general consumer mores, etc. Bring in almost any average citizen of any other nation, and they'd laugh at the Third World bit, except in a few cases, and would laugh at the yawning gap-like distinctions people in the South and elsewhere make about the region.

Anyway, yes most Americans do live in suburban areas. My point was that these areas seem to be rather distinctive, newly built-up places in transition. Growing suburbs whose old character has been changing due to growth, in many cases, or becoming more transient places, what have you. Or is it the large high schools, or some combination? There are variables that are being ignored here, seems to me, in favor of making the issue fit preconceived theories.

Littleton is actually older than Pearl, by the way, which was incorporated in the 1970s, if I remember correctly. Littleton was incorporated in the 1800s. Also, if you look at the Colorado community's web page, there is a guy behind a mule. Like they're in the South of your imagination or something. I thought the page the corniest local promotion I'd seen in some time.
posted by raysmj at 6:46 AM on March 7, 2001

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