School of Hard Knocks, and Lawlessness.

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This, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is absolutely incredible:

The total at-school crime and theft victimization rates of students ages 12 to 18 declined between 2007 and 2008. The total crime victimization rate of students ages 12 to 18 at school declined from 57 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2007 to 47 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2008.

Taken separately, the total victimization rate for theft and other non-violent crimes was 23.5 per 1,000 at school and 21 per 1,000 away from school. The victimization rate for violent crimes was 24 per 1,000 at school and 18.5 per 1,000 away from school. Those are astounding numbers. For comparison's sake, the total victimization rate for violent crimes among adults 20 and older was 15.92 per 1,000. Granted, the rate drops sharply for adults over 34. Still, the rate of victimization among kids is unacceptably high, even when compared to the rate for adults aged 20 to 34, 24.8 crimes per 1,000 adults. Taken together, kids and teenagers suffer from one of the highest crime victimization rates in the country.

Despite the recent national conversation over bullying, I'm not sure adults are aware of the fact that a huge number of kids live in an essentially lawless environment, where crime goes unpunished as long as the scars aren't too visible and the harassment isn't too brazen. As Mark Kleiman puts it in his book, When Brute Force Fails:

"Pupil-on-pupil violence and extortion -- concealed under the rather benign-sounding label of "bullying" -- is a substantial crime problem in its own right: or at least, it would be so considered if adults were being beaten up and shaken down on a daily basis.

It's not just a substantial crime problem; tolerance for school-based crime impairs the learning environment, and teaches kids the wrong lessons about the power of authority -- it can never be trusted -- and the efficacy of violence: it's both rewarded and necessary for self-protection. Of course, shoveling kids into the mouth of Moloch the juvenile justice system isn't really a solution, given its systemic failures and disproportionate use against black and Hispanic students. That said, we are incredibly ill-served by our willingness to let kids exist in this near-Hobbesian state of nature, to borrow a phrase.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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