Newswise — The threat of violence continues to plague children in schools across the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, while there has been a decrease in violent crimes at schools, there has been an increase in school bullying and threats of weapon-related violence toward students.

A new international study from a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia indicates schools that do not provide equal opportunities to students are more likely to have a higher risk of school violence victimization in the United States. In addition, the victims of these incidents in the United States are generally high-achieving male students, which is unlike most other nations where the victims are generally low-achieving male students.

The study, conducted by Motoko Akiba, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at MU, looked at the prevalence of school violence at the eighth grade level in 36 nations. Examining the percentage of students who became victims or were threatened by violence during the previous year, Akiba found that the United States ranked 16th, behind such countries as Canada, Australia, Greece and Spain.

Akiba examined the characteristics of the victims and found that boys were the most consistent factor, while language, parental education and academic aspirations did not matter. However, the United States was one of only six countries (Kuwait, Hungary, Greece, Colombia, and Iceland) where high academic achievement levels were relative to school violence victims.

Akiba compared the United States (7,913 students in 216 schools) with Russia (4,110 students in 188 schools) and Taiwan (5,695 students in 150 schools) to examine the school effects on school violence victimization. The United States was the only country where educational inequality was associated with a higher level of school violence victimization. According to Akiba, educational inequality is measured by the existence of academic tracking and the association between achievement and socio-economic status. In all three countries, skipping classes, the perception of victimization and the level of classroom disorder were significantly associated with a higher level of victimization.

"While the No Child Left Behind Act may be encouraging safe schools for the 21st Century, the focus now is too much on the individual and not on the school environment," said Akiba. "There are more exclusionary prevention programs rather than inclusion programs which are driving a dangerous wedge between the low and high achievers." Part of Akiba's study was recently published in the American Education Research Journal.