Strategies for Preventing Violence in Schools

Instructor: Derek Hughes
School violence is a serious issue that affects many schools nationwide. However, with the successful implementation of strategies at various levels, this violence can be prevented in most cases, leading to a safer and more productive school environment.

Violence in Schools

Think about the following situations: a student is bullying another on the bus to school in the morning. A student has just physically attacked another on the blacktop at recess. A student assaults one of his teachers with a bat on the way to his car. Two students attack another at a school basketball game. Which one of these is an example of school violence?

If you answered all of them, you would be correct! School violence is any violence that occurs between students or between a student and staff member on school property, at school events, or on the way to and from school and school events. It is a serious issue in many schools, but there are several strategies that districts, schools, and teachers can implement to help prevent school violence.

Creating and Maintaining a Safe School Climate

Imagine a school you've been in, attended, or worked in. Think about the different aspects of that school environment that made you, students, and parents feel like it was a safe place for everyone. You may be imagining that this school had a consistent behavior management plan, imagery around the school that encouraged kindness and discouraged anger and aggression, and teachers and staff who implemented conflict resolution and discipline strategies.

All of the aspects of the school environment contribute to the school climate. The school climate consists of the norms, values, and rules that govern interpersonal and professional relationships among students and staff. A safe school climate is incredibly important for preventing school violence.

For example, if a school has a plan in place for conflict resolution and every teacher, staff member, and administrator is trained in the strategies for conflict resolution, there is less of a chance that disagreements and arguments between students will escalate to the point of physical violence. If every adult in the building is trained in the strategies set forth by the school, conflicts can be successfully resolved anywhere inside and outside the building.

Additionally, a safe school climate makes students feel safe (obviously). This means that those students who are victims of bullying and violence feel safe to report it to an adult in the school. Clear and open lines of communication between students and staff give both the power and ability to prevent violence before it even starts. If students feel safe and encouraged to report problematic behavior, teachers and staff can intervene before the problem escalates.

Classroom Management Strategies

Mr. Smiley is a 7th grade teacher in a school that has a high risk of school violence. However, because of his and many of his colleagues' classroom management, there are very few school violence situations. This is because Mr. Smiley uses a variety of strategies inside the classroom that help prevent violence, both in and out of the class.

For example, Mr. Smiley focuses on positive behavior, constantly reminding students when they are caught doing good deeds. Reinforcing positive behavior is more effective in preventing negative behavior than simply reacting to every situation in which a student breaks a rule. For example, Mr. Smiley will verbally acknowledge when a student resists the temptation to act out, every single time he notices a student doing so.

Additionally, Mr. Smiley teaches his students responsibility in both their social interactions and school work. All of his classroom rules and procedures are written to place the responsibility for success in the student's hands. For example, instead of saying 'no calling out', Mr. Smiley informs his students that 'you are responsible for participating respectfully by raising your hand and listening while others are talking'. If a student forgets this responsibility, Mr. Smiley consistently reminds him or her every time.

Finally, Mr. Smiley is consistent in implementing all of his responsibilities, procedures, and consequences. Every single time a student is caught doing something positive, Mr. Smiley acknowledges it. In the same vein, every single time a student forgets a classroom responsibility and acts out, Mr. Smiley reminds him or her of the responsibility and discusses ways the student can improve his or her behavior. This must be the same for every single student because, as soon as you start to ease up with reinforcement, students will notice and start to act out more.

Though all of these strategies are used within the context of the classroom, students will continue to follow their responsibilities out into the rest of the school, especially if every teacher is using effective classroom management strategies. Good behavior starts in the classroom, so effective management is key for preventing school violence.

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