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How can we stop school violence?

Page 3 of 3

By Marian Wilde

What Parents Can Do to Improve School Safety

In 1998, in response to a school shooting, President Clinton asked the government to produce a guide for schools and parents on how to prevent school violence. As a result, two comprehensive guides were published: Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools and Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide.

Components of safe schools

According to Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide, a safe school will have three major components:

  • A school-wide foundation for the well being and success of all students.
  • A system for identifying students with acute behavior problems.
  • A system for providing interventions and therapies for at-risk students.

Early warning signs

Both guides list warning signs, as do many other guides available to parents. However, any time there is concern about a student it is important to guard against judging or oversimplifying. Helping the child, and the entire school community, should be the paramount concern.

Below are some of the warning signs that a student may pose a threat to the school. If you observe any of these indicators in a student, report your concerns to school staff. A potentially violent student usually exhibits more than one of the following behaviors:

  • Difficulty eating or sleeping
  • Abuse of animals
  • Unusual attraction to violent entertainment
  • Withdrawal from social interaction
  • Feelings of rejection and/or persecution
  • Unusually intense or frequent violent content in personal writings or artwork
  • A pattern of bullying
  • Intolerance or prejudice against certain groups of people
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Membership in a gang
  • Threats of serious violence

Imminent warning signs

Imminent warning signs require immediate intervention and may include:

  • Physical fighting with others
  • Destruction of property
  • Intense anger for minor reasons
  • Detailed threats of violence
  • Possession of weapons
  • Threats of suicide

Additional Benefits of Soft Programs

Santamaria, of PCRC, feels that teaching conflict prevention always has unforeseen positive results. We often think of conflict resolution programs in terms of how they can contribute to a safer school climate, but the impact on the students involved in the training is tremendous, according to Santamaria.

"The difficult thing about evaluating prevention programs," she explains, "is that you don't know what would have happened without them. If two young people resolve their conflict in peer mediation, we will never know what would have happened if the conflict had been allowed to escalate. We would like to think that each conflict that gets resolved through kids using their conflict resolution skills is a success story.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/14/2011:
"I really love your writing, unlike most blogs I actually learn things, find the content useful and it’s well written. 11/10 every time! http://www.turnthepagellc.com/ "
10/27/2009:
"How come violence and bullying of teachers is allowed by administrators who are too weak to stand up and do the right thing? I don't understand the mentality that allows students to engage in disrespect, criminal-like behaviors at school when in every other civil part of society it is not tolerated. Schools need to have a zero tolerance for drugs, defiance issues, vandalism and non-cooperative students. But due to public pressure on schools and everyone expecting schools to solve all of society's problems we end up encouraging failure more than promoting success. If a student is only there to screw around, be rude and just socialize then he should be given online or alternative school options. Imagine you having to go to work and someone came in to your office cussing and threatening you or your boss. Would you allow him back the next day? Now imagine he was your co-worker and your boss let him back the next day and his attitude is still the same? That is what public ! schools are like because it is mandatory for some spoiled, lazy, criminal-like and wannabe thugs to be in a place they do not want to be when they would rather be stealing, tagging, drinking and smoking dope. So they bring all this with them to school and waste everyone else's time with their non-sense and stupidity when they should be choosing to learn and prepare for their future. It is misplaced students and lack of programs for them that causes most of the problems in schools. And lets face the reality that not all kids are good. Some belong in jail and will only learn through natural consequences. "
04/14/2008:
"Zero tolerance for 'weapons' merely victimizes non-violent kids, since it makes no distinction between common household/workplace objects and real weapons. If possible life imprisonment does not deter, nor will expulsion. They are also hypocritical, since tire irons, baseball bats, etc. are great 'weapons'. Even worse is when felony charges result, since there is virtually no hope for getting a good job. Ironically, people think that zero tolerance policies would make one feel good about sending their kids to a safe school, when precisely the opposite is true."
01/14/2008:
"I think it's interesting to read Bateman's theory about the 'school-to-prison pipeline'. The cause she suggests is that the public school system is not disciplining the problem students effectively. She measures this problem/cause by what she considers the effect which is the number of young people in the juvenile justice system. I think that the picture needs to broaden a bit. If you put the burden of change on the wrong set of shoulders it only causes more frustration and doesn't result in any real change. It's interesting that the sun rises every morning at 6 AM when my alarm goes off. I thought about changing my alarm to 6:30 but I'm afraid the sun may not rise. Absurd? Exactly. Almost as absurd as the public school system being responsible for the number of youth in the juvy system. Just because the two seem to coincide lets not be hasty in our estimations,quick to find the easy answer and let's take the time to dig a little bit deeper. I suggest that we should put the burden of change with the parents where it should be. Is that the easy answer? No. Broken homes, absent fathers, moral and ethical values not central in parenting, that's a hard thing to address but unless we make an effort to address the real problem we're wasting tax dollars and chasing our tails."
12/18/2007:
"Do uniforms honestly stop school violence or make it so that schools are safer? As a teacher I feel that it doesn't."
12/11/2007:
"School violence is unfortunate, however everyone thinks that to curb the violence we should mandate uniforms. Imagine being on a high school campus with everyone in the same colored shirt....the gun man ( a student) is also in the uniform.....how will the SWAT team know who the bad guy is? As an educator I a not in favor of school uniforms for this reason. I believe that we should be teaching students to be unique and step away from the crowd. I am all in favor of doing what we can do to keep our young people safe, but my worse fear is to not be able to describe the person who is breaking the law. We all hope that it will never happen at our school, but I am sure that Columbine would have had more difficulties had everyone been dressed alike. "
09/20/2007:
"Hello, I had a shocking experience at a charter school I worked at. A student who was out of control was a constant threat to students and staff. This student ended up shooting a classmate in the shoulder with a shotgun. Just playing and it was an accident??? This student was able to come back and was like a hero to the kids. How strange. This kid then threatened to put his hands around my neck. Next he was not expelled , because that takes 'guts' from the school board, so his mother took him out of our school. Next he stalked the school grounds for at least a week and was targeting a student to beat up. The old student just walked up to the school grounds and beat to the ground his target as the principal just stood and did nothing. Actually he said to me 'This is what this kid needed was a beating' What are we to do when administration is weak, ignorant and down right negligent to providing safety to our kids and staff? I was shocked. "
05/30/2007:
"I feel we should let the daily prayer back in all our classrooms! ! !Wake up society!If children have different cultures,let them all quietly pray in their own religion!Where has the respect gone today? Not in our schools obviously!These children are crying out! Lets help them!Save the children,Say a prayer!From B,Iowa"
12/12/2006:
"I THINK THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE PEOPLE THEY ARE USING,STOP PRETENDING,TO BE SOMEONE'S FREIND ONLY TO GAIN FROM IT IN THE END.PASSING AROUND ANGER IS'NT A NICE THING, EVEYBODY BLEEDS RED TOO, EVEN A STUFFED BEAR GET'S TO BE UNLOVEABLE,THESE CHILDREN ARE KILLING CHILDREN AND FOR WHAT THIS SHOULD BE A BETTER PLACE FOR THEM. CANT THE PEOPLE BEHAVE THEMSELVE'S WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU DON'T YOU KNOW THIS HAS COSENQENCES' LOVE ONE ANOTHER BELIVE IN EACH OTHER AND ALWAY'S KNOW THAT THERE'S SUFERING ALL AROUND YOU.SO STOP THE VIOLENCE AND CRIME AND MAKE SURE YOU STAY AWAY FROM MINE(MY KIDS).THERE'S GOOD IN EVERYONE AND I CAN'T KEEP TRYING THIS BATTLE ON MY OWN.SO WHAT DO YOU SAY MY FELLOW AMERICANS DO YOU THINK YOUR UP FOR CHANGE TO GET OUR COUNTRY BETTER AGAIN.LIFE IS SO SHORT AND TO THINK THAT OUR FREEDOM IS A WASTE ;IT'S UNTHINKABLE FOR ME TO SAY,GOD HELP US ALL."
11/21/2006:
"I think 'bullies' should be addressed and teachers/paraprofessionals/principals should be held accountable for their lack of action. In Byron Michigan,our school is filled with the bully conduct,nothing is done except the innocent are punished.I have personally observed this;I have no children in schoo."
11/13/2006:
"I think that you should also address the bullying of teachers and other adults in the school community, presently covered up by those in power and control. Teachers who dissent or otherwise are 'in the way' may be controlled or removed by fabricated charges which are upheld by the courts. Such bullying exacerbates school violence (if the adults don't respect each other, the students won't), obstructs true school reform, and inhibits the recruitment and retention of quality teachers. check www.endteacherabuse.info"
11/3/2006:
"This article contains information that needs to be disseminated out into the public sector. I would like to add that there is an organization available to all area high schools in the country that helps educators address school violence as well as other life-essential topics. The organization, through Directors of Educational Outreach, promotes 30, 45-minutes presentations, free of charge, to high school students across the nation. Topics include violence prevention, conflict resolution, drugs & alcohol abuse awareness, health and nutrition and a host of others. For more information on getting these presentations into the schools, please visit www.youcanschoolprogram.com. One other website that offers a career planning program to help students set life goals is www.careertrain.com. Let's work together to motivate students to work with each other to gain balance and success in their lives. 'Destiny is not a matter of chance, it's a matter of choice.' anonymous"
10/19/2006:
"Well Century had a bomb threat found on Wednesday but threatening the school on Thursday. They didn't do a good job of informing the public at all. Most parents probably wouldn't have known about it unless their child told them."
10/16/2006:
"Hi, I am an SRO from deep south texas. Not to scare any parent out there, but you need to keep an open door communication policy with your kids. After working with middle school and high school level kids I have grown to learn that more and more drugs are around and drug use leads to more and more violence. Bullyng is a big issue in south texas and rarely goes unheard by the victims of bullying. The drugs problem can be controlled but never stopped. As far as violence, well there are alot of gangs in south texas and many games being played, like the choking game where kids choke each other and then come out of it (sometimes they don't) fight's, like seen on tv are being played and kids actually dying from sustained injuries. Kids are invited to attend these fights and record them (which recently happened here in south texas in a small town called 'Progreso'. Also alot of school staff and students don't take the practice drills seriously, I think that is a very critic! al problem in any school.. kids and staff just don't take it seriously and don't think it could ever happen to their school!"
10/4/2006:
"This is propaganda at its best. The public school system is too large to meet the true needs of the student emotionally, physically, and educationally. Schools need to be smaller, decisions need to be made locally, and families need to take back responsibility for making sure their children are getting a good moral education. U.S public education strips spirituality and religion from all subjects and then we wonder why our children are so lost! Take your children out of public school today. Teach them values, teach from your heart or cooperate with other families to create a small school that teaches your true values."
10/19/2005:
"We may as well not spend one thin dime on Violence prevention and Anti Bullying education without addressing the archaic use of corporal punishment. We must get all forms of violence out of schools. Teachers must not hit children, for any reason. They must model the very behavior we are striving for in our schools. In schools that use corporal punishment, the bully has simply moved to the head of the class. "
03/10/2005:
"Though I am just a 9th grader in high school, I still see those that are older than me not resolve a conflict with negotiation but instead with violence. I believe that it involves gang members, but then again I am not sure. I attend Champlin Park High School in Champlin, Minnesota and it is a fine school overall. But, some things there bring it all down. Kids always swearing at each other, wrestling like children, being racist and prejudice, kids insulting those who dress in a 'geeky' manner to their eyes and a lot more. Do not think that I am saying this school only have problems, every school does. Nothing is perfect in this world we all live in. I mean, can these 'children' in high school act like high schoolers? They cannot see that we all are human beings and live within different situations. Yet, they say something aloud on purpose so the one offended can come and confront them to fight. Things are certainly chainging around the schools as well as the world."
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