Combating School Violence
Whose problem is school violence? The answer is all of ours. Just as it is a problem we all must deal with, it is also a problem we all must work to solve. The community, the administrators, the teachers, the parents, and the students must come together and make schools safe. Otherwise, prevention and punishment will not be effective.
What are schools doing right now? According to the above-mentioned NCES survey, 84% of public schools have a 'low security' system in place. This means that they have no guards or metal detectors, but they do control access to school buildings. 11% have 'moderate security' which means either employing a full-time guard with no metal detectors or controlled access to the buildings or a part-time guard with controlled access to the buildings. Only 2% have 'stringent security' which means they have a full-time guard, use metal detectors, and control who has access to the campus. That leaves 3% with no security measures at all. One correlation is that the schools with the highest security are the ones that have the highest instances of crime. But what about the other schools? As stated before, Columbine was not considered a 'high-risk' school. So one step that might be taken by the schools is to increase their security levels. One thing that many schools are doing, including my school, is issuing name badges. These must be worn at all times. Although this won't stop students from causing violence, it could stop outsiders from easily appearing on campus. They stick out by their lack of a name badge. Further, teachers and administrators have an easier time identifying students who are causing disruptions.
Schools can also institute violence prevention programs and zero tolerance policies. Want more information on these programs? Check out the following:
- Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence
- National Crime Prevention Council
- Safe and Drug-Free Schools Programs
- Youth Crime Watch of America
What Can Parents Do?
They can pay attention to subtle and overt changes in their children. Many times there are warning signs well in advance of violence. They can watch for these and report them to guidance counselors. Some examples include:
- Sudden lack of interest
- Obsessions with violent games
- Depression and mood swings
- Writing that shows despair and isolation
- Lack of anger management skills
- Talking about death or bringing weapons to school
- Violence towards animals
What Can Teachers Do?
- Similar to parents, watch for the above warnings signs
- Talk to parents about concerns they might have - remember to keep the lines of communication open
- Bring concerns to guidance counselors and administration
- Be consistent in enforcing classroom and school policies
- Make your room a prejudice-free classroom - set the policy from the first day and enforce it
- Teach anger management skills as the need arises - be a good role model for the students yourself
- Create a plan of how to handle emergency situations with your students
- Learn more with Top 10 Ways Teachers Can Prevent School Violence
What Can Students Do?
- Refuse to succumb to negative peer pressure, especially when violence is involved
- Report any knowledge of weapons on campus
- Tell your teachers about suspicious behaviors of other students
- Walk away from confrontations
Worries about school violence should not hamper the job we educators must perform. However, we need to remain aware of the possibility that violence could erupt anywhere. We must strive to work together to create a safe environment for ourselves and our students.