In 1999, the nation was rocked by the shooting massacre that happened in Columbine, Colorado. Since then, numerous school shootings have occurred in the United States, illustrating a consistent problem with teen violence. The tragedy and aftermath of such events prompts us to question our children’s safety in schools and what could lead an adolescent to unleash such violence.
Parameters of youth violence, according to the Foundation for Child Development, generally include four peer-to-peer actions: injury with a weapon, intentional injury without a weapon, threat with a weapon without an injury, and threat without an injury. To make it a little clearer, youth violence, particularly in schools, includes:
- Fighting (slapping, punching or hitting)
- Electronic aggression (bullying or threatening via technology)
- Gang-related violence
- Using a weapon or threatening to use a weapon
The statistics are startling. Among high school students in grades 9 through 12, more than 7 percent report being threatened or injured with a weapon in the past year, based on school violence facts reported by DoSomething.org. In 2011, 20 percent were bullied and over one-third were involved in a physical altercation. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 2010, nearly 1 million (828,000) cases of non-fatal victimizations occurred against adolescents ages 12 to 18 years.
Fatal victimizations, on the other hand, are just as egregious. During the 2009 and 2010 school year, a reported 17 homicides occurred at school, during a school event, or near school. This makes up about 1 percent of school-related homicides. Although the number is low, the other kinds of violence that occur on school grounds or at the home warrant further investigation. Youth violence claimed almost 5,000 lives in 2010, for example, and about 6 percent of students did not attend school for one or more days because they did not feel safe.
Recognize the Warning Signs
Unless an adolescent is overtly violent, it may be hard to discern if someone is capable of violence or likely to commit violence at school. Many of the perpetrators of school violence or shootings often do not seem like those prone to violent behavior. Although the following at-risk conditions do not wholly indicate or predict violent behavior, they are markers that can go hand in hand with some of the warning signs.
- A personal or family history of violence
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Unstable home life
- Poor academic performance
- Negative peer relationships
- Interest in playing with weapons
- Boasting about committed acts of violence
- Talking about committing acts of violence
- Preoccupation with violent video games and/or movies
- Bullying or threatening others
- Cruelty to pets, animals or people
Getting Help for Adolescent Violent Behavior
If your teenage son is prone to violent behavior and substance abuse, the problem behavior won’t go away automatically. Some of these actions require professional medical treatment and counseling to get to the root of the issue. Alcohol and drug abuse in particular can exacerbate already violent behavior, so it’s more important than ever to seek the appropriate care if you suspect your son is abusing drugs or alcohol.
Call us here at Muir Wood to learn more about our treatment programs. We focus on problem behavior and work with your adolescent on developing clear goals, building communication skills, and achieving academic success. We know how important your son’s future is. Call us today to find out more about how we can help.