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					         Violence Prevention
           in Rural Schools
          Challenges and Opportunities
           Presented by: Dr. Joy Renfro, Associate Professor
        Eastern Kentucky University Violence Prevention Project
A subcontractor of the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community
         Changes occurring in
          rural communities
• Despite the common stereotype of rural
  communities as places of serene
  stability, life in rural communities and
  small towns is subject to the same
  changing societal forces affecting the
  rest of America.
          Changes occurring in
           rural communities
• Major trends in rural America include:
  – Changing structure of the family
     • Rise in female-headed households
  – Increased mobility within society
  – Changing economic picture
  – Increasingly diverse population
          Rural School Trends
• Many communities lost their rural
  schools as school districts consolidated
  – The number of school districts has
    decreased from 128,000 in 1930 to
    approximately 15,600 by the late 1990’s
  – In rural areas that are adjacent to urban
    areas, schools are struggling to keep up
    with the influx of new students
          Rural School Trends
• Most schools are rural schools
  – In 1997-98, more public schools were
    classified as rural (21,636) than any other
    community type (e.g., large city, midsize,
    large town, small town, etc.)
  – During the 1998-99 school year, 27.8% of
    children attended public schools in rural
    communities and small towns.
           Rural School Trends
• Rural residents are less educated than urban
  – 23.5% of rural residents 18 and older do not have
    a high school diploma as compared to 17.4% of
    urban residents
  – Rural youth are more likely to drop out of high
    school (20% rural vs. 15% urban); and rural
    youth are less likely to return to school or get a
  – Rural youth are less likely to go to college (23%
    rural vs. 29% urban) and are less likely to
    graduate from college (13% rural vs. 23% urban)
             Rural Crime Facts
• In 1997, violent crimes in cities with
  populations of 1 million people or more
  dropped 6.2%, while rural counties
  experienced a 3.1% increase.
• The majority of arrestees in rural counties
  were white (79%) and over the age of 18
• From 1993-1998, there has been less of a
  decrease in violent and property crime rates
  in rural areas than in urban and suburban
  areas, though overall violent crime rates are
  still lower in rural areas.
             Rural Crime Facts
• Rural violent crime victims are less likely to
  be victimized by a stranger than urban or
  suburban victims.
• The percentage of homicides involving an
  intimate is greater in rural areas (21%) than
  in large cities (7%)
• Despite an overall decrease in homicide
  trends, most of the decrease has occurred in
  large cities with rural areas experiencing
  relatively little change in homicide
            Rural Crime Facts
• The most common location for rural victims
  of violent crime was their homes (18%). For
  urban and suburban areas, the most common
  areas were open places such as on the street,
  or in public transportation.
• Rural violent offenders are less likely (8%)
  than suburban (9%) or urban (12%) violent
  offenders to use a firearm.
           Rural Crime Facts
• Rural residents of races other than
  black or white were twice as likely to be
  victims of violent crime as were black or
  white rural residents.
• The rates of victimization were:
  – 31% white; 34% black; 68% other
            Why Rural Matters…
              Kentucky Data
• The Appalachian Regional Education
  Laboratory ( has compiled
  profiles of the four states in their region and
  has found that Kentucky has:
   – The highest percentage of rural adults with less
     than a 12th grade education
   – The highest percentage of rural schools with
     declining enrollments.
   – The third highest percentage of rural students
     who are free lunch eligible.
         EKU School Partners
• In 1999, EKU partnered with three rural
  Kentucky high schools
• Freshmen in all three schools were
  surveyed using the National School
  Crime and Safety Survey
           EKU School Partners
• Schools #2 & #3 are in the same county with
  a total population of 57,000
• School #1 has a county population of 16,000
  – School #1 (in county #1) had a total number of
    794 students – N (freshmen) = 238
  – School #2 had a total number of 971 students
    with N (freshmen) = 269
  – School #3 had a total number of 996 students
    with N (freshmen) = 280
        EKU School Partners
• Median household income in county #1
  = $21,156
• Median household income in County #2
  = $24,225
         EKU School Partners
• Percentage of children in poverty:
  – County #1 = 38.5%
  – County #2 = 30.4%
  – Ky. average is 32%
  – U.S. Average is 18%
         EKU School Partners
• Percentage of adults with no high
  school diploma
  – County #1 – 55%
  – County #2 – 44%
  – Ky. Average is 50.9%
  – Ky. Non-rural average is 37.8%
    Problems facing rural schools
• It is a well-known fact that both
  community action and educational
  reform are needed to prevent violence.
  – problems facing rural schools are strongly
   related to low economic conditions and low
   educational attainment by the adult role
   models in their lives.
Factors that place children at risk of
   • Abuse, neglect and/or violence in the home
   • Factors related to family functioning, including chemical
     and mental health problems, divorce, death, and other
     family upheaval
   • Lack of supportive relationships or connections with
     adults and peers
   • Criminal or delinquent histories of parents or siblings
   • Early, severe anti-social behavior
   • Poor school attendance, school failure
   • Early first contact with police or documented incident of
   • Open “child protective services” cases
     Problems facing rural schools
• Unlike their urban counterparts rural schools
  may face a compounded, more difficult
  – Along with a lack or resources (DeYoung &
    Lawrence, 1995), a commonly held belief in many
    rural schools is that they don’t have the problems
    of racism, violence and general decay that more
    metropolitan schools have (Herzog & Pittman,
  – As a result, comprehensive programs to address
    problems of violent behavior in rural schools are
    not developed, nor are they addressed. If they
    are, they are usually fragmented approaches and
    have little chance of solving the problems.
        Risk factors (continued)
• In a survey of three rural schools
  districts conducted by Petersen,
  Beekley, Speaker, and Pietrzak in 1996,
  researchers found that school personnel
  believed that the major elements
  related to school violence were:
  – Lack of family involvement, supervision
    and family violence
          Problems continued…
• If rural school administrators do not perceive
  violence as a problem that effects their school
  they are more likely to resist school violence
  prevention efforts or to put less effort into
  implementing these programs.
• Rural schools administrators may be more
  inclined to believe that the family should be
  the entity to deal with violent youth
 The link between academic performance and
       victimization among rural students
• Kingery, Pruitt, and Hurley (1996) found that
  poor academic performance appeared to be
  linked to victimization among rural students.
• Student who are victims of violence are also
  more likely to be aggressors
• Aggressive youth, in turn, are found to have
  lower IQ and academic performance(Griffin
  1987), and low cognitive problem-solving
• Therefore the relationship between violence
  and academic performance may be circular.
      Our School’s Performance
• A national norm reference test used in
  Kentucky, the CTBS/5, measures the
  basic skills of our students while
  allowing us to compare their
  performance with national benchmarks
  established in 1996. Scores are shown
  in percentiles (percentage of students
  who fell below a particular score on the
                Our School’s
            Academic Performance

             School #1   School #2   School #3

9th grade    46%         51%         46%
9th grade    35%         51%         43%
9th grade    38%         51%         45%
             Other Measures
         Attendance   Retention   Dropout   College
         Rate         Rate        Rate

School   93%          8.3%        3.4%      46.8
#1                                          %
School   93%          4.8%        2.3%      52.5
#2                                          %
School   93.8%        12.2%       3.5%      45.5
#3                                          %
EKU’s VP Project
• Design
    • Two control schools and one intervention
  – The National School Crime and Safety
    Survey was administered on 4
    occasions to all freshmen students
    • Fall 1999, Spring 2000, Fall 2000, Spring 2001
  – Staff members at all three schools
    took the staff form of the survey in
    Spring of 2000 and Spring 2001
• 98.3% of the students who took the survey
  were freshmen at the initiation of the project
  and 98.3% were sophomores at the end of
  the 2-year project
  – 196 were male (46.7%
  – 224 were female (53.3%)
     • 392 (95.1%) were White; 3 (.7%) were African-
       American; 1 Hispanic (.2%); 5 (1.2%) Other; and 11
       (2.7%) Multi-ethnic
Living situation of students
•   272 – 65.5% living with Mom and Dad
•   92 – 22.2% Mom only
•   11 – 27.0% Dad only
•   40 – not living with Mom or Dad – 9.6%
•   27 – Other – 6.5%
Completion Rates
• Seven-hundred eighty-four (784) students
  began the study in Fall 1999 when they were
• 321 completed all four surveys (41%
  response rate)
  – 24 cases were bad matches and were eliminated
    from the remainder of the analysis
• 420 students were present in the school for
  the whole study and completed surveys at
  times 1 and 4 and one other time for a
  completion rate of 53.6%.
EKU’s VP Project
• Interventions included:
     • School Coordinator to assist with all VP efforts at school
       – works closely with Youth Services Center
     • Conflict resolution training for all freshmen
     • SADD – student organization
     • VP Curriculum for Adolescents – taught to all students
       referred for behavior problems
     • Professional development session for teachers on
       “Importance of good student/teacher relationships”
     • Enhancement of Character Education program
     • School security audit/crisis response drill
     • Committee who monitors violent incidents
     • Purchased an interactive computer program – Relate for
• In fall of 1999, the intervention school had the
  highest scores in victimization, perpetration,
  and the willingness to fight.
• By May 2001 this trend was reversed so that
  the intervention school was lowest in
  victimization, perpetration, and willingness to
• None of these trends were statistically
  significant, however the reduction in
  perpetration of .50 points is a reduction of
  about 1 incident of perpetration per student in
  a 30-day period.
• This finding then is significant in the
  experience of violence from the student’s
Victimization: Higher Score Equal
More Victimization

Perpetration: Higher Score Equal
More Perpetration
Motivation to Fight: Higher Score =
More Motivation

Results - continued
• In addition to the surveys, structured interviews were
  conducted with groups of administrators, teachers,
  and students.
• These interviews revealed improved awareness of the
  administration toward issues related to school safety
  and violence prevention. Because of their improved
  awareness administrators had made changes in
  policies, and had increased their attention to safety
  and security within the school.
• It is our believe that the improved awareness,
  change in policies and increased attention to safety
  will ultimately result in changes that are statistically
Comparison of the rural sample to an
urban sample
• Comparison of Kentucky students to a
  group of students in Milwalkee, WI was
  done in order to gain a better
  understanding of how students in the
  rural schools compared to those in
  urban schools
             Key findings
     Ky. vs. Milwaukee students
• Ky – N= 614 students
• Milwaukee – N =208 students

• In Ky 63.7% of these students lived
  with their mother and father
• In Milwaukee 36.1% of the students
  lived with mother and father
            Kentucky and Milwaukee
               groups compared
                   N     Mean      Std. Dev.   Std. Error
Propensity to      577   13.6066    4.79976     .19982
fight – KY
Milwaukee          93    14.5054    4.65931     .48315
Victimization at   569   14.0439    7.04586     .29538
school – KY
Milwaukee          89    11.9888    4.73741     .50216
Perpetration at    583   10.0532    5.19869     .21531
school – KY
Milwaukee          92    8.9783     3.59174     .37447
Independent Samples Test
                                                           Std. Error
                  T        Df      Sig. (2-      Mean           of
                                   tailed)    Difference   Difference
Propensity to   -1.683    668       .093       -.8988       .53419

Victimization   3.528    156.526    .001       2.0552       .58260
  at school

Perpetration    2.489    158.407    .014       1.0749       .43195
 at school
Differences of
urban vs. rural sample
• There is no statistical differences in the
  propensity to fight
• Differences in victimization and
  perpetration are statistically significant
  at the .001 level and .014 level
  – This is a major difference
Weapons carrying
• Kentucky students were more likely to carry
  weapons than were Milwaukee students.
  – 68 out of 601 students (11.3) of Kentucky
    students reported bringing a knife to school within
    the last 30 days
  – 0 Milwaukee students indicated that they had
    brought a knife to school within the last 30 days
     • These results were significant at the .000 level
Weapons carrying
• Nine (1.5%) of Kentucky students
  reported that they had brought a gun to
  school within the last 30 days
• Zero Milwaukee students reported
  bringing a gun to school within the last
  30 days
• Milwaukee teachers felt there was less
  use of school safety measures and that
  they were more in danger than
  Kentucky teachers
• Milwaukee teachers perceived worse
  conditions at their schools than did the
  Kentucky teachers
Sense of Policy and Procedures that
are Fair and Promote Safety
•   Rules strictly enforced         •   Student infractions acted upon
•   Students know rules                 to satisfaction
•   Punishment is equal and         •   Punishment decided by at least
    unbiased                            2 school officials
•   Students receive appropriate    •   Students rarely treat school
    punishment                          personnel with respect
•   Students know punishments       •   School personnel respect
•   Student seldom receive fair         students
    hearings                        •   Students report rule infractions
                                        to school authorities
•   Teachers know rules
                                    •   School personnel express
•   Parents support school
    discipline efforts                  concern about victimized or
                                        afraid students
•   School personnel consistently
    report infractions              •   School personnel carry
                                        unauthorized weapons
Sense of policy and procedures that
are fair and promote safety
• On all the previously mentioned items –
  Ky teachers answered more positively
  than Milwaukee teachers except for two
  – Ky teachers were more concerned (than
    Milwaukee teachers) about school
    personnel carrying unauthorized weapons,
    and being treated with less respect by
Discrepancies between students and
• Teachers in Milwaukee sample perceived that
  their schools were not as safe as did the Ky.
• Student surveys revealed however, that there
  was in fact more victimization and
  perpetration in Kentucky schools than in
  Milwaukee schools
• These results verify what was mentioned
  earlier in the DeYoung & Lawrence study
  – That rural school leaders do not have a sense that there are
    problems in their schools
  – This supports the belief that rural schools are likely to be
    more resistant to programs that target violence prevention
Future goals for those
working with schools
  – Create a positive school climate in which everyone
    respects each other
  – Assist students in developing better academic
  – Form relationships with student’s and families in
    order to assist with directing them toward
    appropriate community resources
  – Work with other community agencies/companies
    to provide support to students and families
  – Continue to implement violence prevention
    programs in the school(s).
  – Appalachian Regional Educational Laboratory
  – Hamilton Fish Institute, A Comprehensive Framework for School
    Violence Prevention –
  – Kingery, P. M., Pruitt, B.E., Brizzolara, J.A., Heuberger, G. (1996).
    Violence Prevention in Rural Areas: Evidence of the Need for
    Educational Reform and Community Action, International Journal
    of Educational Reform, Vol. 5, No. 1.
  – National Center for Education Statistics
  – National Center on Rural Justice and Crime Prevention –
  – Petersen, G.J., Beekley, C.Z., Speaker, Kathyrne, M., Pietrzak, D.
    (1998). An Examination of Violence in Three Rural School
    Districts, Rural Educator, Vol. 19, No.3.
  – Peterson, Reece L.; Skiba, Russell (Spring 2000). Creating School
    Climates that Prevent School Violence

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