Through the Franklin Center and Amplify School Choice, I had the opportunity to visit two Washington, DC area charter schools and hear ideas, information and opinions from various students, parents and leaders about school choice opportunities. Washington, D.C. is a mostly urban area and seems to reflect the opportunities and challenges of urban areas across the nation. Families with financial means may work in the city but they live in and their children attend schools in the suburbs. Lower income families continue to live in the city and, as seen elsewhere, their neighborhoods have become increasingly racially segregated. As I spoke to the students, administrators, and leaders, student safety became a common theme. When speaking with the charter school students who had attended public school before, safety was a notable factor in choosing to attend a charter school, even if it meant traveling an hour one way to get there.
According to a study done in 2002, School Crime Patterns, “High schools with the highest levels of violence tended to be located in urban areas and have a high percentage of minority students, compared to high schools that reported no crime to the police. They also tended to be located in areas with high social disadvantage and residential mobility. It should be noted, however, that a relatively large minority of the schools in the Violent Crime group were located in rural areas (36%), so that the image of school violence being solely restricted to central cities is not accurate.”
Another study reveals “Urban schools suffer most from violence. Many of these schools serve neighborhoods troubled by violence and gang-related crime. It is not surprising that these problems find their way onto campus. But a study of 700 communities conducted by the National League of Cities revealed that 30 percent of suburban and rural schools also reported an increase in violence over a five-year period. In another survey conducted by the Children’s Institute International, almost 50 percent of all teenagers—rural, suburban, and urban—believe that their school is becoming more violent.” – The Challenge of School Violence, Constitutional Rights Foundation.
How can we expect students to learn what is being taught if they don’t feel safe?