Expert Says Common Thread Exists in Youth Violence

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What might be most disturbing about the fight at Meridian High School Feb. 18 is an all too common occurrence.

Weems Mental Health behavior specialist, Dr. Susan Carmichael, says the number and degree of violent instances in schools across this area is growing. Why is it happening?

Carmichael says, regardless of where the seed of violence is planted, one personality trait continues to pop up in today's generation of school children.

"Lack of empathy. We are raising a generation of kids that don't really care about anybody else and they have a high need to be at the top of the social pecking order," Carmichael said. "They want dominance; they want respect. But they don't necessarily know how to get it."

Dr. Carmichael said she believes many parents are unaware of exactly how prominent school bullying and violence has become. After all, when most adults were in school, the odds of seeing or being involved in a brutal fight while sitting in English class was low. However, the times have changed.

"Even if they are not the target of the bullying , they see it going on around them," Carmichael said. "I'm having more and more kids in therapy talk about the unsafe environment that they are having to go to school in. And a lot of kids are developing not only academic problems because of it, we see absenteeism go through the roof when we've got a school that's full of bullying. Kids don't want to go; they're afraid to go."

Students are not the only ones to blame for the increase in violence. The right to discipline students for acting out has become so controversial that teachers face losing their jobs if they attempt to help victims of in-school violence.

"The teachers hands have been tied so much compared to when I was in school," said Carmichael. "Teachers are afraid to do anything now, because parents immediately respond, 'why did you do this to my child and don't you lay a hand on my child'."

Statistics show that bullying peaks in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
Until the schools are able to update their policies, parents are urged to step in and recognize, stop, or prevent fighting in the classroom.

"Find out what's going on at school," advises Carmichael. "Really, really work with them on how to respond to incidents of bullying, And if your child is being bullied on a daily basis, I recommend that the child start to document, document, document and then eventually, report."

School fighting occurs everywhere, no matter your race, gender, and socioeconomic stature.