Back To CourseSchool Violence Prevention
11 chapters | 74 lessons
Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.
Every time a crisis happens, someone will inevitably lament that 'we should have seen it coming' or 'if only we knew that was going to happen'. Unfortunately, there have been enough crises in school settings that we have begun detect a notable pattern of indicators preceding an incident. By paying attention to these indicators, we are able to turn that hindsight into foresight and potentially prevent a situation from occurring.
Rather than being reactive after an incident, schools can become more proactive by teaching these indicators and encouraging bystander intervention. Bystander intervention means that, if you see something, you should say something. Being able to recognize and identify these indicators should be accompanied by comprehensive training of school staff and students in effective bystander intervention. If all the staff are well trained in bystander intervention, then everyone will be ready for responding to these indicators as they arise.
According to the document titled 'School Safety Leadership Curriculum Guide' from the National Center for School Safety, there are identifiable changes in student behaviors that precede the outbreak of some sort of crisis or conflict in schools. Because these behaviors predict any potential problems among students, this information can be used to reduce the possibility that a crisis will occur. Let's take a look at some of the behaviors that can lead to conflict or disruption.
The number of behavioral infractions among individuals or groups of students may increase dramatically, especially fighting, bringing weapons, increased absenteeism, and property destruction. There may also be an increase of intimidation tactics.
Furthermore, when several students perceive consequences and disciplinary actions for infractions as unfair, this may also indicate an impending crisis. For example, let's say there is an increase in the number of fighting suspensions involving white and international students. Because much of the student body feels that some of those who fought did so in self-defense, the disciplinary actions for the fights are perceived as unfair by other students, which could lead to unrest.
Another precursor to a crisis is a notable increase in the presence of weapons in the school. It is critical to keep records on spreadsheets of the number and types of weapons confiscated at school in order to detect these escalations.
Sometimes schools will notice an increase in absenteeism before a crisis. Families may pull out their students from school if they know something's going to happen, so be cautious of any increase of student withdrawals. Students may also leave school themselves by skipping class, dropping out, or getting suspended.
Frequently, schools will notice an increase in disrespect for property rights, such as with graffiti, vandalism, destruction, or theft. In capitalist societies that value property, many may feel that damage to property is the best way to be heard. Graffiti or vandalism that is affiliated with or attributed to specific groups may be gang-related. Like fighting, property damage may also indicate an emotional immaturity among students who lack effective coping skills and the means of expressing their frustrations in more productive and effective ways.
Sometimes a crisis can be indicated by the presence of fliers or student-sponsored, independent newspapers. Emergence of underground communications may indicate an effort toward organization. If students are willing to do unassigned writing work, then you can guarantee they care about the topic.
Recently, there have been several strikes and protests resulting in high rates of absenteeism of students participating in the protests. Not unlike in the national political scene these days, schools that are at high risk of experiencing a crisis may notice segregation and clustering of rival groups.
If there is general unrest in the community, this may transfer to the atmosphere of the school. In our example of students fighting from before, the altercations increased after a controversial immigration law passed. The fights were political because events in the community transferred into the school.
Another pre-crisis indicator could be an increase in the presence of unfamiliar people who begin showing up at school events. Teachers and administrators should be familiar with the relatives who are a part of their students' lives. In the event of special occasions like a school dance with chaperones from the community, a science fair, or a theater production, make a point of getting to know the people from outside the school who may have access to the facilities or the students.
Being aware of what may seem out of the ordinary for your school and understanding these common pre-crisis indicators can help teachers, administrators and staff provide a safer environment for students by preventing a situation from escalating into a crisis.
In this lesson, we looked at the indicators that might mean a situation is developing into a crisis. Recognizing these signs may help teachers and school staff provide bystander intervention to prevent a crisis. These indicators include: increases in behavior infractions, perceptions of disciplinary unfairness, community unrest transfers to the school, increase in weapons, underground student publications of unrest, unusually high student withdrawal, dropout or suspension rate, clustering or social segregation, property damages, increases in violence, and unfamiliar guests at school events. Understanding these signs is the first step toward preventing a crisis in the school setting. Develop a comprehensive and coordinated plan that will address what to do in the event that some of these indicators are observed at your school.
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Back To CourseSchool Violence Prevention
11 chapters | 74 lessons