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Schools' Safety Grades Improve

New figures show there's been a decrease in school violence in the school year that is now coming to a close. The news comes as principals and staff focus attention on how to keep schools safe.

Teacher Barry Grunow of Lake Worth, Fla., may have been the final fatality in the saddest of this year's school statistics, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

On May 26, the Lake Worth Middle School teacher was fatally shot in the head by one of his students. Nate Brazill, 13, has been charged by police with the shooting.

The National School Safety Center reports nine school-related deaths this school year - a big improvement over recent years.

In the 1997-1998 school year, when students in Pearl, Miss., became the first victims in a wave of school shootings, there were 35 school-related deaths. They included

  • October, 1997: a 16-year-old Pearl killed his mother, then went to school and shot nine students, two fatally.
  • December, 1997: A 14-year-old was accused of killing three students and wounding five others at a high school in West Paducah, Ky.
  • March 1998: four girls and a teacher were shot to death at a school in Jonesboro, Ark. Accused were two students, ages 11 and 13.
  • April 1998: A science teacher who was shot to death at an eighth grade graduation dance. A 14-year-old was charged.
  • May 1998: A high school student was killed by a classmate in the parking lot of Lincoln County High School in Fayetteville, Tenn.
  • May, 1998: Two teen-agers were fatally shot and more than 20 people were hurt when a 15-year-old suspect opened fire in a high school cafeteria in Springfield, Ore. His parents were found slain at their home.

In 1998-1999, the year of the Columbine massacre, the death toll was 23.

On April 20, 1999, two student gunmen at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 13 people and placed bombs throughout the school before taking their own lives.

With this year's decrease to nine, analysts credit the shock of Columbine with prompting greater awareness.

Now, educators are looking for the early warning signs and involving mental-health professionals. They're enhancing their school safety and security, carving out a much greater role for law enforcement.

Many schools have adopted zero-tolerance policies -- rules that can result in severe punishment for behavior that used to get a warning. For example, a Harrisburg, Pa., student recently was sent home for bringing a toenail clipper to school.

Administrators admit the first line of defense against violence is the students themselves.

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