Psychologist says school violence creates 'atmosphere of fear'

By Reid Kerr - bioemail
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Wednesday's murder was not the first incident on the John Tyler campus, only the most serious. Numerous fights and gang-related problems have created what a psychologist calls an atmosphere of fear for students.

While TISD says Wednesday was an isolated incident, they admit there are problems on campus.

"I'll be the first to tell you that we do have a gang problem in Tyler, Texas," TISD Superintendent Randy Reid said. "We do have gang members that go to schools in Tyler, Texas, just like we do in every community...some of the fights that have occurred at John Tyler and other campuses in Tyler do have some connection to gang activity."

Parents and students have told us fights at John Tyler are common.

"Throughout the whole day, they were just fighting," said a student.

"I can't go anywhere by myself," said another student.

"As a concerned parent, I'm fearful."

If students feel there is a constant threat of violence, psychologist Wilson Renfroe says it will have a long term effect.

"Well, it's always going to create an atmosphere of fear because you never know exactly what's going to happen," Renfroe explained. "If there's fight that happen, typical normal fights, you deal with some of it, but when it gets over the top, it can create a real atmosphere of fear."

Renfroe said even if the events weren't directly related, violence can breed violence.

"If someone's not exposed to violence, they don't have the idea that violence is an answer," he said. "Violence would never occur if they'd never seen it, never heard about it, never witnessed it, they wouldn't think to use violence necessarily."

Renfroe said he hopes Wednesday's death can at least draw attention to the problem, and start to change any culture of violence that exists.

Renfroe said even if a culture of violence exists at a school, a child's home life is still more important to shaping how they feel.

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