Local psychologist says school violence is on the rise

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- One local psychologist says school violence is on the rise, and has been over the past few years.

"Kids have access to guns. There's no doubt about that. It's what they do with it and how safe those guns are that really makes the difference," says Dr. Bill Pfohl, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Western Kentucky University.

"Are we seeing an uptick in school violence? The answer is yes," he adds.

Dr. Pfohl says, "They've gone from fists to guns."

And this uptick is fairly recent.

According to Dr. Pfohl, "From 1992 was the high point, and there was a downward trend until about 2015."

He goes on to explain, "What happened is after Columbine we saw a huge influx of ideas, people and resources into the schools and the communities to prevent school violence."

"Those centers have now closed or their funding has eliminated over the time and maybe that's another factor that we need to look at," says Dr. Pfohl.

Another factor psychologists say may be leading to this increase in violence is bullying -- specifically online.

"There is no specific, what we call 'profile' or behavioral or emotional pattern that we find are consistent across all of these shootings. The only thing the FBI and Secret Service found was the bullying," says Dr. Pfohl.

"Some of it's societal, some of it's individual, some of it's community," he adds.

As the trend of violence rises, Dr. Pfohl says the age group acting out seems to be getting younger and younger.

"We used to be seeing typically high school students, now it's middle school, and again the downward trend is continuing down into upper elementary school," he says.

Historically in Kentucky, Dr. Pfohl says, "We've had more school shootings than most states, we've had a lot of school violence reported, we keep records and data on that."

But in recent years, "I think schools have done a much better job in the last 15 years. They're aware. They do a lot of training with teachers, they do a lot of training with kids about what to look for, what to listen for, and I think that's helped prevent a lot of events," adds Dr. Pfohl.

He says schools are one of the safest places a kid can be, and that parents need to make sure to be involved in their kids' lives and teach them about safety.

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