Is school violence on the rise?

The midstate has not escaped violence at schools.

In most recent years, a man with a machete attacked students at North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary school in York County in 2001. A student shot and killed the Red Lion Junior High School principal and then himself in 2003. In Cumberland County, a woman was gunned down by her ex-boyfriend in the parking lot of Highland Elementary in 2005. In 2006, the world followed the Amish school shootings in Lancaster County.

However, violence in school is not a new thing.

“We can actually go back way back to Colonial times and find there were incidents that occurred in schools. Shootings that occurred typically had a minor number of victims; two, three victims,” said Donald Smith, emergency planning and response coordinator for the Center For Safe Schools.

“Columbine was a large scale event with a lot of victims, so it drew a lot of attention, but going back to the 70'S there have been school shootings.”

The Center For Safe Schools provides emergency training for schools across Pennsylvania and other states. They say a new FBI report shows such incidents are on the rise.

“They had been averaging approximately five per year, and over the last decade they have actually increased to approximately 16 per year,” Smith said. “That is not just school shootings though, that is across; the mall shootings, the theatre shootings and everything.”

So why are they on the rise? Smith says many psychologists have theories but he has also heard a specific concern from educators.

“I attended a superintendents' meeting last year shortly after Sandy Hook and one of the key concerns from several superintendents from that intermediate unit was the amount of mental health funding that was cut back in their area, that they are not able to get the services or they are not able to get them in a timely fashion,” Smith said.


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