III. Key Moments / Events
In the final years of the 20th century, following a spate of widely publicized school shootings and other high-profile incidents of juvenile violence on school grounds, safety at American educational institutions became an issue. The primary controversy has revolved around whether school violence is a legitimate and realistic cause for worry or panic or whether the actual statistics are quite encouraging despite some political and / or scholarly claims to the contrary. In other words, while some argue that our public schools are experiencing some kind of epidemic of violence, others maintain that citizens should rest assured that our public schools are relatively safe places.
Competing and often contradictory claims about the frequency or rarity of these types of happenings, as well as calls for legislative action aimed at their prevention, flooded the popular media and academic literature alike in the wake of more than a few high-profile shootings. As justification for the passage of the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999, it was stated that “Congress finds that juveniles between the ages of 10 years and 14 years are committing increasing numbers of murders and other serious crimes . . . the tragedy in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in the United States.” In sharp contrast, the Final Report of the Bi-Partisan Working Group on Youth Violence asserted that “there are many misconceptions about the prevalence of youth violence in our society and it is important to peel back the veneer of hot-tempered discourse that often surrounds the issue . . . it is important to note that, statistically speaking, schools are among the safest places for children to be” (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice 2000).