It is impossible to find a comprehensive and universally acceptable program that applies to all schools in the vast and diverse complex of American schools. Any discussion of school violence and the changes to environment that are effective in reducing it will offer up competing ideas, conflicting approaches and general, vague statements that sound good on paper, but which offer few definitive steps toward implementing an actual program.
The exceptions are in the area of understanding that school violence has declined since its peak in the early 1990s. This could be because the most violent and out of control of the students will readily be arrested and incarcerated in ways that neither schools nor parents can stop.
And parents who refuse to get the point that they are the key to getting school violence under control are the biggest point of interference. The more dysfunctional the parents, the less ability that the adults will have to understand that their children's violence is unacceptable. Many of the most problematic parents are being incarcerated, themselves, but there are still many who do not get the point regardless of their race, whether both parents are in the home, or economic status, as with the Columbine shooters.
Other effective programs that are offered actually present a surprising combination of more well defined disciplinary codes, collaborative input and authority, safety councils and investing students into school activities, which is believed to make them less inclined to violent acts.
A Chicago Schools violence program included collaborative input by parents, teachers, students and administrators to develop a disciplinary code, in-school suspensions. The same collaborative approach was used to reviewing exceptional discipline cases and to set up a school safety council.
Other programs involved teaching children nonviolent conflict management while still other approaches went straight to hard core control and punishment. Some disciplinary codes took a "take no prisoners" approach, with zero tolerance expulsions and suspensions for having even prescription drugs or bringing silverware from home for eating lunch.
There are also student dispute mediation programs, conflict management programs and anger management programs. It makes sense to give the students an alternative to the conflict and anger management solutions that they are or are not getting at home.
Anonymous tip lines are another valuable tool for getting the students, who are famously resistant to being "snitches", to talk about situations that are building up before they get out of hand.
Physical changes involve solutions that included restricting access to school facilities, securing entrances, video surveillance, monitoring visitors while they are on the property and dealing with problematic adults in the community, especially gang leaders, drug abusers, drug dealers and registered sex offenders.
The latest problems of interest are in school and out of school bullying, or activities at off site events where violence occurs. It is difficult to determine how the school is or is not involved. There is a thin line of liability with off site activities because the students would not normally congregate at such events if not for a school related function, party, or group event.
Another difficult issue involves transit to and from school. There are few provisions for getting protection while getting to and from a compulsory day at school. The fact that a student is compelled by law to take a certain unprotected route, or to ride a bus with no supervisor aboard to school should be dealt with in terms of ensuring their safety, as with the young man who was attacked, beaten and burned to death on his way home from school.
He was attacked for refusing to join a well known gang that operated openly in the neighborhood. Had he not been compelled to walk that route because of school, or had he had some protection on his route, he may have had other options for avoiding the gang members.
Finally, school bullying can begin on the school premises, can begin on Facebook, or can begin anywhere else that is not on school property. But those who are involved have one commonality: they are compelled by law and by their parents to go to school together, and that is where most of their off campus interactions and disputes originate.
In summary, America has an educational "glass" that is fractured into tens of thousands of pieces, with each school district and each separate school taking its own route to solving the problems of school violence. There is no one universal community or group of students, so finding universal ways that work for all will be the biggest challenge of the new century.