It’s Time To Do Something
The mix has become appallingly predictable: volcanic anger, no one to turn to, and readily available firearms. Result: dead and wounded students, teachers, and faculty at schools in all parts of our nation. Violence in our schools, whether it involves threats, fistfights, knives, or firearms, is unnecessary 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 concern. The threat 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 help: teachers, parents, students, policy makers, law enforcement officers, and other concerned community leaders. Each of us can do something to help solve the problem. And it’s a problem we all must solve.
The most common school security measure used to prevent violence or other disruptive acts requires school staff, in particular teachers and security staff, to monitor student’s movements in and around campus. The supervisors should watch the hallways, doorways, restrooms, cafeteria, and the areas where students congregate most. Parents provide for very effective and less costly monitors and teacher’s aides. Youth are less likely to misbehave or engage in violent acts if parents from their neighborhood are highly visible on a daily basis in their school.
Establishing a dress code is another strategy used to curb violence. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students should develop the dress code collaboratively. Schools must be sure that the rules created have a purpose. Every administrator, teacher, parent, and student should receive a copy of the codes. They should also be reviewed in each class so that every student is aware of their existence and the consequences of violating any rules. School administrators and teachers should ensure that the codes are implemented consistently and firmly but also fairly.
Schools should establish counseling programs for students, and assure that students do indeed have access to their counselors. The average high school counselor has between 350-400 students to advise. Needless to say, students are lucky to see their counselor once during a school year, usually when it is effectively counsel the students in the school and to ensure that students have access to their assigned counselor on a regular basis, counselors should be assigned no more than 125-150 students per school year. Counselors should also be relieved of all clerical and other noncounseling responsibilities.
Another form of “counseling” is the widespread use of conflict resolution strategies to defuse potentially violent situations and to persuade those involved to use nonviolent means to resolve their differences. Schools that have adopted conflict resolution strategies are trying to teach young people new ways of channeling their anger into constructive, nonviolent responses to conflict. As a means of addressing violence, conflict resolution programs in schools start by identifying a core group of student leaders in the school. This group receives intensive training and supervision in the use of conflict resolution strategies and student mediation. Members of the conflict resolution team then use their skills and knowledge to help maintain order in the school by counseling their peers, intervening in disputes among students, helping them talk through their problems, and training other students to use conflict resolution strategies. Conflict resolution strategies should be used in individual classrooms as well as school wide. In addition, high school team members should visit students in elementary school and teach them the value of conflict resolution skills. Therefore, conflict resolution strategies can be used for both prevention and intervention.
Schools should strongly consider the establishment of crisis centers for students who commit violent acts or threaten violence. Teachers and administrators can refer students to the centers, which should be staffed by professionals who are specially trained to work with violent students. Crisis centers should be somewhere where students can be sent to “cool-off” and to receive on the spot counseling. They should not be a replacement for after school detention.
Another strategy being used by an increasing number of schools is extending the number of hours that the school is open to students. In some communities, after the regular school day has ended, schools are kept open so that students can participate in organized activities such as sports, gymnastics, crafts, art, music, tutorial programs, or other activities. Other schools, especially elementary schools, provide space for childcare programs to accommodate working parents who are unable to pick up their children at the end of the school day and do not want them home alone.
Many school leaders are beginning to hire people dedicated to security duties. School Resource Officer (SRO) programs are becoming increasingly popular across the country. SROs are usually city or countly law enforcement officers assigned by their departments to work in the schools within their jurisdiction. The advantage of such a program is having sworn officers with full police authority and street experience available not only to enforce the law on campus but also to provide classroom education and student counseling. The SRO program provides high-quality service that is cost-effective for schools and police departments alike. It can also enhance school crime reporting procedures and the sharing of information on school and community juvenile crime activity between the district and the police. A more productive program might involve an SRO program and an in-house security presence. When both models are in use, the SROs can focus their efforts on enforcing and investigating criminal offenses, classroom instruction, and student counseling. Meanwhile, in-house security personnel can conduct preventive patrols, supervise common areas, conduct security assessments, and assist staff with disruptive students.