9 Challenges Our Students Face in School Today Part IV: Violence

As students continue to experience challenges in school today, one problem that has gained more awareness over the past decades is violence in the school system. This article discusses the warning signs, potential outcomes of unhandled violence, and action steps schools can take to prevent violence.

Violence has a high impact on schools where the incident takes place. Students who engage in violent behavior tend to be bored, frustrated, and angry, feel alienated, and have low self-esteem. Increased instability in families and blatant violence depicted in the media and music are believed to contribute violence in schools. Rare but deadly incidents of violence, such as the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, in which 12 students and 1 teacher were killed, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, in which 20 children and 6 staff members died, have led many schools to focus on anti-violence strategies and to take measures to protect students from threats of violence. Many schools have developed crisis plans that include strategies to address potential violence and injury to students emanating from human beings as well as potential injury caused by natural disasters. Widely differing schools recognize the need for a crisis plan to ensure student safety.

Sometimes school routines can instigate aggression and anger in students, particularly those who are not involved in school activities, perform poorly academically, and lack good relationships with teachers and their peers. Acts of violence usually occur during times of transition, such as the beginning of the school day, at lunchtime, or after school. It is important for schools to reduce crowding, especially at times of transition, and to heed warning signs that are generally apparent. Schools should have methods of reporting these warning signs, and reporting may fall to the teachers and students who have developed relationships with individuals engaged in violence-precipitating activities. Schools, particularly principals, can also take the following measures:

1. Ensure that the school’s teachers, staff, and parents have common goals and that everyone is committed to reaching those goals.
2. Ensure that the school is run in a fair, firm, and consistent manner.
3. Ensure that high expectations for performance and behavior exist for all students.
4. Ensure the curriculum teaches and promotes the values of kindness, honesty, integrity, and respect for fellow students and everyone else.
5. Put in place security measures that will ensure weapons and unwanted individuals are kept out of the school and off school grounds, making the school neutral territory for all who attend.
6. Ensure there are alternative schools for serious offenders.
7. Train students, teachers, and staff in constructive methods of communication to help prevent violence.

Teachers can also take certain measures to prevent violence and vandalism, and to protect themselves from harm. These include:

1. Ensure the classroom teaches and promotes respect and kindness, and does not tolerate putdowns, teasing, and sarcasm.
2. Learn how to manage the class and mediate conflicts that are resolved in win–win outcomes for everyone involved.
3. Make sure to develop strong classroom management skills.
4. Teach students peer-mediation skills so that they can handle problems before they escalate.
5. Allow students to be involved in the decision-making process so that they feel that they have a voice in how to handle offenders.

Violence in students should be taken seriously because of the potential impacts of damages to the school, students, staff, and community. However, by being aware of the signs that reflect these problems among your students can help prevent traumatic situations. In the classroom seek to assist your students as best as you can and continue to educate them. Continue to read the other parts of this series to learn more about the challenges students face today.

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