10 Ways Teachers Can Help Prevent School Violence

Ways to Prevent School Violence

School violence is a concern for many new and veteran teachers as marked by the increasing number of shootings by students on school property. What have we learned from some of these tragic events? There are some commonalities. Investigations on the Columbine (1999) massacre revealed that students knew something about the plans. Documents from the Sandy Hook (2012) shooting revealed that authorities knew about the shooter's cache of weapons. The Parkland shooting (2018) media coverage revealed that the shooter was known by administrators to have an obsession with guns and violence.

A pattern has emerged that shooters “leak” their intentions, leaving a trail of clues behind.  Knowing in advance about patterns such as "leaks" may help teachers and students to prevent future violence. There may be other ways to prevent violence as well. Therefore, teachers need to know how to evaluate the information they may learn to try and prevent acts of violence within all schools.

01
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Do Involve Yourself Beyond Your Classroom

Bullying
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While most teachers feel that what happens in their classroom is their responsibility, there are a few teachers who take the time to involve themselves beyond the four walls to look at what goes on outside of their classroom.

For example, in between classes, you should be at your door monitoring the halls and keep your eyes and ears open. These structured periods of time allow you to learn a lot about your and other students. Make sure that you are enforcing school policy at this time, even though this can sometimes be difficult. If you hear a group of students cursing or teasing another student, you should intervene.

Teachers who turn a blind eye to problems are communicating that they are approving bullying behaviors.  Bullying is a form of violence that can contribute to a problem. 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, all states including, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes identifying persons who are required to report suspected child maltreatment to an appropriate agency, 

 Individuals designated as mandatory reporters usually include ƒsocial workers, teachers, principals, and other school personnel. 

02
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Do Not Allow Inappropriate Talk

Set this policy on the first day. Come down hard on students who say prejudicial comments or use stereotypes when talking about people or groups. Make it clear that they are to leave all of that outside the classroom, and it is to be a safe place for discussions and thought. Empower students who are inclusive of their peers. Encourage students to be kind.

03
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Do Listen to "Idle" Chatter

Whenever there is "downtime" in your classroom, and students are just chatting, make it a point to listen in. Students do not have and should not expect a right to privacy in your classroom. 

The Fourth Amendment can stop the police and other government agents from searching a student or property without "probable cause," however, students have fewer privacy rights in school than outside of school. As stated in the introduction, students may know something about what other students may be planning.

If you hear something that puts up a red flag, jot it down,  and bring it to your administrator's attention.

04
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Do Get Involved With Student-Led Anti-Violence Organizations

If your school hosts an anti-violence forum, join in and help. Become a member and look to see what kind of help is needed. Become an anti-violence club sponsor or help facilitate programs and fundraisers.

If your school does not have such programs, you may want to investigate what students would like and help to create anti-violence programs. Getting students involved at the beginning can be a huge factor in helping prevent violence. Examples of different programs include peer education, mediation, and mentoring.

05
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Do Educate Yourself on Warning Signs

There are typically many warning signs that show up before actual acts of school violence occur including a lack of remorse in dealing with peers. Another may be a high level of dysfunction in the family. Other warning signs are not limited to or may include the following behaviors:

  • Sudden lack of interest in friends or activities
  • Obsessions with violent games or weapons
  • 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
06
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Do Discuss Violence Prevention With Students

School violence is in the news, so this is a great time to bring it up in class. Depending on the school's policy, teachers can mention the warning signs and talk to students about what they should do if they know someone has a weapon or is planning violent acts.

Teachers should encourage students to take lockdown and active shooter drills held during the school day seriously. Ask them to think about a location during a drill, "If this was an actual emergency, where should I go to be safe?"

Schools may schedule routine practice like fire drills on the routes of escape from the classroom or some of the populated areas of the school building including the cafeteria and the library.

 

07
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Do Encourage Students to Talk Appropriately About Violence

Be open to student questions and conversations. Try and make yourself available and let students know that they can talk with you about their concerns and fears about school violence.  Build trust with all students. Keeping these lines of communication open is essential to violence prevention.

08
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Do Teach Conflict Resolution and Anger Management Skills

Use teachable moments to help teach conflict resolution. If you have students disagreeing in your classroom, talk about ways that they can resolve their problems without resorting to violence. Use debate formats to shape productive classroom discussions.

Practice the skills of speaking and listening in class so that students will be prepared to exercise their rights and accept the responsibilities of citizenship 

Further, teach students ways to manage their anger through role-plays, simulations, and learning center activities. Teachers in every discipline should take the opportunity to share opinions and literature that will help build empathy.

09
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Do Get Parents Involved

Just as with students, keeping lines of communication open with parents is very important. The more that teachers call parents and talk with them, the stronger the relationship. Build trust with parents so that if a concern arises, you can effectively deal with it together. Report concerns you may have.

10
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Do Engage in School Wide Initiatives

You may want to serve on the committee that helps develop how school staff should deal with emergencies. You may want to contribute to safety plans. By being actively involved, you can assist with the creation of prevention programs and teacher training.

Sharing with teachers may help everyone become aware of warning signs and also provide them with specific directions on what to do about them. Creating effective plans so that all staff members understand and follow is one key to helping prevent school violence.