V. Crime’s Impact on Education
A second overall perspective on the concept of education and crime is to examine the impact of crime on education. As with education’s impact on crime, crime’s impact on education has several directions from which it can be approached. The following sections discuss crime as a barrier to educational opportunity and attainment as well as briefly consider school safety issues.
A. Crime as a Barrier to Educational Opportunity
One of the major areas in which crime’s impact on education can be found is in how crime very often serves as a barrier to educational opportunity for many people. This barrier status can appear from two directions: (1) the negative mobility patterns for some groups in terms of traditional and nontraditional criteria for upward movement and educational achievement and (2) individuals’ lack of opportunity for educational attainment due to their own criminal behavior (e.g., incarceration, dropping out of school, and expulsions).
For many people, going to college or achieving higher levels of education is an unrealistic goal because of financial constraints or living conditions; instead, daily survival is of utmost concern. Many of these individuals have had to drop out of school at an early age to help support their families and/or take care of younger siblings; for others, their own criminal behavior became a barrier to their future educational attainment. Incarcerated individuals obviously have very few opportunities (if any) above remedial instruction that generally leads to a GED. Others, because of their behavior, have been forced out of their local schools by suspensions and/or expulsions. As state budgets become more and more restrictive, educational programs in general have been eliminated or greatly decreased.
B. Crime’s Connection to High School Graduation
As stated previously, many individuals are forced to drop out of traditional K–12 educational programs because of their own criminal or delinquent behavior. These individuals usually start off with in-school suspensions, which evolve into out-of-school suspensions and, ultimately, to expulsions. In most states where the compulsory education age is 16, these individuals often find themselves forced to attend alternative educational programs. Research has supported the belief that the majority of these youth do not seek any postsecondary educational opportunities; many do not finish high school or GED programs.
Most, if not all, of the typical criminal or delinquent school behaviors, such as skipping school, drug use, violent behavior, and engaging in property crime, correlate strongly with a lack of high school graduation. Many educational systems across the United States have adopted a zero-tolerance policy stance when it comes to any type of negative student behavior. The primary result of these policies is expulsion from school of the delinquent child, and the primary result of most expulsions is that the individual never returns to school. Thus, lacking the proper educational attainment (and, possibly, intellect), he or she is not able to be competitive in most job markets. As stated earlier, a lack of employment is a major factor in an individual’s decision to turn to criminal behavior to meet his or her financial needs.
C. School Safety Issues
A final area of discussion is the very practical impact that crime can have on education. The scope of this research paper does not allow a full examination of the issues related to school violence and its results, but it would be improper not to mention this issue at least briefly. Readers would be well advised to seek further information about the various impacts of school violence on students and teachers. There are volumes of research dealing with the most common forms of school violence: sexual harassment and bullying. These two issues alone, many people would argue, are responsible for a great deal of high school dropouts, assaults, and even school shootings.
School safety and the proper protection of students are very strongly connected to crime. The more crime a school has, the less safe the students are going to feel, and the less secure they feel, the less they will learn. When students have to worry about their safety on a daily basis at a school, the academic experiences very often get left behind. Most people would agree that learning becomes secondary very quickly when a child has to worry more about death then failure in the classroom.
Many of the connections that crime has with K–12 education relate to incidents that occur between students. There is a significant problem with bullying and sexual harassment on the campuses of many American schools. These acts, although not obviously violent, many times go unnoticed and can have an extremely negative impact on the victims. As previously stated, such treatment has been connected to high dropout rates, failing grades, and even juvenile suicides.