A third of high school students can think of a classmate who may be troubled enough to stage a violent attack in their school — yet fewer than half have ever had a special class or discussion group that told them how to report a threat of school violence
More than a third also say they've heard a classmate threaten to kill someone — but most of them didn't take it seriously or report it to an adult, according to a new ABCNEWS/Good Morning America poll.
One in eight say they personally know a student who's brought a gun to school, and one in 10 say they've heard of a plan by one or more students at their school to shoot or kill classmates.
At the same time, just a little more than half, 54 percent, say they've had a class, special program or group discussion on the subject of school violence. And just 46 percent have been taught in such a class what to do if they hear a threat or think another student is armed.
On the positive side, the poll found that most students feel safe, and that their concerns are no worse — and in some cases better — than they were after the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. At that time, for instance, 40 percent saw some likelihood of a violent attack at their own school; now it's 29 percent.
The Bullying Factor
Charles Andrew Williams, who is accused of killing two students and wounding 13 last week in Santee, Calif., reportedly had been a target of bullying at his school. And this poll finds that when students think of a potentially violent classmate, it's generally a boy who comes to mind, and one who's been bullied by others, rather than a bully himself.
Thirty-three percent say they can think of a fellow student "who may be troubled enough to try something like this." That's down a bit from 40 percent in 1999.
Seven in 10 say the potential attacker they can think of is a boy, and 29 percent think of both boys and girls; just 2 percent have only a girl in mind. Three-quarters say it's more likely to be a person who gets picked on than one who picks on others.
Relatively few students, 13 percent, say they personally are picked on at school.
Despite the Santee shooting and another two days later in Williamsport, Pa., students are taking the issue in stride. Now as in 1999, nine in 10 say they feel personally safe at their school, and more than three-quarters say violence is not a serious problem there.
There's evidence, moreover, of fewer guns in school, and less access to guns. While 13 percent of students personally know a student who's brought a gun to school, it was 20 percent two years ago. And while 44 percent say it would be easy for them personally to get a gun, that's down from 54 percent in 1999.
Risk, of course, never reaches zero. Among the vast majority of students who haven't seen a gun in school, nine in 10 say they'd report it if it happened. But a few — 7 percent —say they would not report it.
Similarly, just 5 percent call violence a "very serious" problem at their school (another 16 percent call it "somewhat serious") and just 7 percent feel personally unsafe at school. But while small percentages, these represent hundreds of thousands of students.