The mix has become appallingly predictable, volcanic anger, no skills to vent the anger or ease the pain, no trusted adult to turn to, and accessibility of firearms. The result: dead and wounded students, faculty, and staff at schools in all parts of our nation. We can all help prevent these tragedies in three ways: violence prevention (not reaction) programs in every community; young people taught by all of us how to manage anger and handle conflicts peaceably; and guns kept out of the hands of unsupervised kids and treated as hazardous consumer products.
But the relatively small number of school-site homicides is only the tip of an iceberg that could cost our children their futures and our communities their civic health. Violence in our schools-whether it involves threats, fist fights, knives, or firearms-is unwarranted and intolerable. Children deserve a safe setting to learn in. Teachers and staff deserve a safe place to work in. Communities deserve safe schools that educate kids and help keep neighborhoods safer.
For some schools, violence may be a minor issue; for others, it may be a daily presence. Though the most extreme forms of violence are rare, the threat of all kinds of violence can keep students away from school, prevent them from going to after-school events, and leave them in fear every day.
To make our schools safer, everyone can and must pitch in; teachers, parents, students, policy makers, law enforcement officers, business managers, faith leaders, civic leaders, youth workers, and other concerned community residents. Each of us can do something to help solve the problem and, it's a problem we all must solve.
What can you do to stop school violence? This page presents six starter lists of ideas. Some require only individual action; some require concerted effort; some address immediate issues like kids bringing weapons to school; others address the problems that cause violence. Consider these lists a launching pad. There's lots more that can be done. We've listed resources that can provide even more ideas and help in carrying them out.
On your own, with a group, with your child, with a classroom full of children whatever you do, there's something here you can do. Anything you do will help. Here are a few tips for everyone:
Recognize that keeping firearms in your home may put you at legal risk as well as exposing you and your family to physical risk. In many states, parents can be held liable for their children's actions, including inappropriate use of firearms. If you do choose to keep firearms at home, ensure that they are securely locked, that ammunition is locked and stored separately, and that children know weapons are never to be touched without your express permission and supervision.
- Take an active role in your children's schools.
- Talk regularly with teachers and staff.
- Volunteer in the classroom or library, or in after-school activities.
- Work with parent-teacher-student organizations.
- Act as role models.
- Settle your own conflicts peaceably and manage anger without violence.
- Listen to and talk with your children regularly.
- Find out what they're thinking on all kinds of topics.
- Create an opportunity for two-way conversation, which may mean for going judgments or pronouncements.
This kind of communication should be a daily habit, not a reaction to crisis.
- Refuse to bring a weapon to school, refuse to carry a weapon for another, and refuse to keep silent about those who carry weapons.
- Report any crime immediately to school authorities or police.
- Report suspicious or worrisome behavior or talk by other students to a teacher or counselor at your school. You may save someone's life.
- Learn how to manage your own anger effectively. Find out ways to settle arguments by talking it out, working it out, or walking away rather than fighting.
- Help others settle disputes peaceably.
- Start or join a peer mediation program, in which trained students help classmates find ways to settle arguments without fists or weapons.
- Report to the principal as quickly as possible any threats, signs of or discussions of weapons, signs of gang activity, or other conditions that might invite or encourage violence.
- With help from students, set norms for behavior in your classroom.
- Refuse to permit violence.
- Ask students to help set penalties and enforce the rules.
- Regularly invite parents to talk with you about their children's progress and any concerns they have.
- Send home notes celebrating children's achievements.
- Learn how to recognize the warning signs that a child might be headed for violence and know how to tap school resources to get appropriate help.
- Encourage and sponsor student-led anti-violence activities and programs, such as peer education, teen courts, mediation, mentoring, and training.
LAW ENFORCEMENT & SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS:
- Get to know students in non-confrontational settings.
- Help them see you as a mentor, peace keeper, and problem solver, not just as an enforcer.
- Develop a formal memorandum of understanding with the school about handling complaints, criminal events, and other calls for service.
- Volunteer to serve on the school's Safe School planning team.
- Offer to train teachers, staff, and students in personal safety.
- Work with students to help present these trainings.
- Help students learn about the costs of violence to their community-financial, social, and physical.
- Link them with others in the community who are affected by violence to help them understand its lasting impacts.
- Establish "zero tolerance" policies for weapons and violence. Spell out penalties in advance.
- Adopt the motto "If it's illegal outside school, it's illegal inside."
- Educate students, parents, and staff on policies and penalties.
- Include a way for students to report crime-related information that does not expose them to retaliation.
- Establish a faculty-student-staff committee to develop a Safe School Plan.
- Invite law enforcement officers to be part of your team.
- Policies and procedures for both day-to-day operations and crisis handling should cover such subjects as identifying who belongs in the building, avoiding accidents and incidents in corridors and on school grounds, reporting weapons or concerns about them, working in partnership with police, and following up to ensure that troubled students get help.
- Work with juvenile justice authorities and law enforcement officers on how
violence, threats, potentially violent situations, and other crimes will be handled.
- Meet regularly to review problems and concerns.
- Develop a memorandum of understanding with law enforcement on access to the school building, reporting of crimes, arrests, and other key issues.
FOR THE REST OF US:
- Adopt a school. Help students, faculty, and staff to promote a sense of community in the school and with the larger community through involvement in a wide range of programs and activities.
- Help to strengthen links between school services and the network of community services that can help students and families facing problems.
- Join with school and law enforcement in creating and sustaining safe corridors for students traveling to and from school.
- Help with efforts to identify and eliminate neighborhood trouble spots.
- Help students through such opportunities as job skills development, entrepreneurship opportunities, and internships.
- Encourage employees to work with students in skills training, youth group leadership, mentoring, coaching, and similar one-to-one and small group activities.
- Make your facilities available for these activities when possible.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council