School Safety

A Dozen Things Parents Can Do to Stop School Violence

  • Recognize that keeping firearms in your home may put you at legal risk as well as expose you and your family to physical risk. In many states, parents can be held liable for their children's actions, including inappropriate use of firearms. If you do choose to keep firearms at home, ensure that they are securely locked, that ammunition is locked and stored separately, and that children know weapons are never to be touched without your express permission and supervision.
  • Take an active role in your children's schools. Talk regularly with teachers and staff. Volunteer in the classroom or library, or in after-school activities. Work with parent teacher - student organizations.
  • Act as role models. Settle your own conflicts peaceably and manage anger without violence.
  • Listen to and talk with your children regularly. Find out what they're thinking on all kinds of topics. Create an opportunity for two-way conversation, which may mean forgoing judgments or pronouncements.This kind of communication should be a daily habit, not a reaction to crisis.
  • Set clear limits on behaviors in advance. Discuss punishments and rewards in advance, too. Disciplining with framework and consistency helps teach self-discipline, a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives.
  • Communicate clearly on the violence issue. Explain that you don't accept and won't tolerate violent behavior. Discuss what violence is and is not. Answer questions thoughtfully. Listen to children's ideas and concerns.They may bring up small problems that can easily be solved now, problems that could become worse if allowed to fester.
  • Help your children learn how to examine and find solutions to problems. Kids who know how to approach a problem and resolve it effectively are less likely to be angry, frustrated, or violent.Take advantage of "teachable moments" to help your child understand and apply these and other skills.
  • Discourage name-calling and teasing. These behaviors often escalate into fistfights (or worse).Whether the teaser is violent or not, the victim may see violence as the only way to stop it.
  • Insist on knowing your children's friends, whereabouts, and activities. It's your right. Make your home an inviting and pleasant place for your children and their friends; it's easier to know what they're up to when they're around. Know how to spot signs of troubling behavior in kids ? yours and others.
  • Work with other parents to develop standards for school related events, acceptable out-of-school activities and places, and required adult supervision. Support each other in enforcing these standards.
  • Make it clear that you support school policies and rules that help create and sustain a safe place for all students to learn. If your child feels a rule is wrong, discuss his or her reasons and what rule might work better.
  • Join up with other parents, through school and neighborhood associations, religious organizations, civic groups, and youth activity groups.Talk with each other about violence problems, concerns about youth in the community, sources of help to strengthen and sharpen parenting skills, and similar issues.

A Dozen Things Principals Can Do to Stop School Violence

  • Reward good behavior. Acknowledging students who do the right thing, whether it's settling an argument without violence or helping another student or apologizing for bumping into someone helps set the tone for the whole school.
  • Establish "zero tolerance" policies for weapons and violence. Spell out penalties in advance. Adopt the motto "If it's illegal outside school, it's illegal inside." Educate students, parents, and staff on policies and penalties. Include a way for students to report anonymously crime-related information that does not expose them to retaliation.
  • Establish a faculty-student-staff committee to develop a Safe School Plan. Invite law enforcement officers to be part of your team. Policies and procedures for both day-to-day operations and crisis handling should cover such subjects as identifying who belongs in the building, avoiding accidents and incidents in corridors and on school grounds, reporting weapons or concerns about them, working in partnership with police, and following up to ensure that troubled students get help.
  • Work with juvenile justice authorities and law enforcement officers on how violence, threats, potentially violent situations, and other crimes will be handled. Meet regularly to review problems and concerns. Develop a memorandum of understanding with law enforcement on access to the school building, reporting of crimes, arrests, and other key issues.
  • Offer training in anger management, stress relief, mediation, and related violence prevention skills to staff and teachers. Help them identify ways to pass these skills along to students. Make sure students are getting training.
  • Involve every group within the school community ? faculty, professional staff, custodial staff, students, and others ? in setting up solutions to violence. Keep lines of communication open to all kinds of student groups and cliques.
  • Develop ways to make it easier for parents to be involved in the lives of their students. Provide lists of volunteer opportunities; ask parents to organize phone trees; hold events on weekends as well as week nights. Offer child care for younger children.
  • Work with community groups and law enforcement to create safe corridors for travel to and from school; even older students will stay home rather than face a bully or some other threat of violence. Help with efforts to identify and eliminate neighborhood trouble spots.
  • Insist that your faculty and staff treat each other and students the way they want to be treated ? with respect, courtesy, and thoughtfulness. Be the chief role model.
  • Develop and sustain a network with health care, mental health, counseling, and social work resources in your community. Make sure that teachers, counselors, coaches, and other adults in the school know how to connect a needy student with available resources.
  • Ensure that students learn violence prevention techniques throughout their school experience. Don't make it a one-time thing. Infuse the training into an array of subjects. Draw from established, tested curricula whenever possible.
  • Consider establishing such policies as mandatory storage of outerwear in lockers (to reduce chances of weapons concealment), mesh or clear backpacks and duffel bags (to increase visibility of contraband); and limited entry access to the building (to reduce the number of inappropriate visitors).

A Dozen Things Students Can Do to Stop School Violence

  • Refuse to bring a weapon to school, refuse to carry a weapon for someone else, and refuse to keep silent about those who carry weapons.
  • Report any crime immediately to school authorities or police.
  • Report suspicious behavior or talk by other students to a teacher or counselor at your school. You may save someone's life.
  • Learn how to manage your own anger effectively. Find out ways to settle arguments by talking it out, working it out, or walking away rather than fighting.
  • Help others settle disputes peaceably. Start or join a peer mediation program, in which trained students help classmates find ways to settle arguments without fists or weapons.
  • Set up a teen court, in which youths serve as judge, prosecutor, jury, and defense counsel. Courts can hear cases, make findings, and impose sentences, or they may establish sentences in cases where teens plead guilty. Teens feel more involved in the process than in an adult-run juvenile justice system.
  • Become a peer counselor, working with classmates who need support and help with problems.
  • Mentor a younger student. As a role model and friend, you can make it easier for a younger person to adjust to school and ask for help.
  • Start a school crime watch. Consider including a student patrol that helps keep an eye on corridors, parking lots, and groups, and a way for students to report concerns anonymously.
  • Ask each student activity or club to adopt an anti-violence theme.The newspaper could run how-to stories on violence prevention; the art club could illustrate the costs of violence. Career clubs could investigate how violence affects their occupational goals. Sports teams could address ways to reduce violence that's not part of the game plan.
  • Welcome new students and help them feel at home in your school. Introduce them to other students. Get to know at least one student unfamiliar to you each week.
  • Start (or sign up for) a "peace pledge" campaign, in which students promise to settle disagreements without violence, to reject weapons, and to work toward a safe campus for all. Try for 100 percent participation.

A Dozen Things Teachers Can Do to Stop School Violence

  • Report to the principal as quickly as possible any threats, signs of or discussions of weapons, signs of gang activity, or other conditions that might invite or encourage violence.
  • Set norms for behavior in your classroom. Refuse to permit violence. Ask students to help set penalties and enforce the rules.
  • Invite parents to talk with you about their children's progress and any concerns they have. Send home notes celebrating children's achievements.
  • Learn how to recognize the warning signs that a child might be headed for violence and know how to tap school resources to get appropriate help.
  • Encourage and sponsor student-led anti-violence activities and programs ranging from peer education, teen courts, and mediation to mentoring and training.
  • Offer to serve on a team or committee to develop and implement a Safe School Plan, including how teachers and other school staff should respond in emergencies.
  • Enforce school policies that seek to reduce the risk of violence. Take responsibility for areas outside as well as inside your classroom.
  • Insist that students not resort to name-calling or teasing. Encourage them to demonstrate the respect they expect. Involve them in developing standards of acceptable behavior.
  • Teach with enthusiasm. Students engaged in work that is challenging, informative, and rewarding are less likely to get into trouble.
  • Learn and teach conflict resolution and anger management skills. Help your students practice applying them in everyday life. Discuss them in the context of what you teach.
  • Incorporate discussions on violence and its prevention into the subject matter you teach whenever possible.
  • Encourage students to report crimes or activities that make them suspicious.

A Drug-Free School Zone is More Than a Law and a Sign

Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.

Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.

It is a law and a community-wide commitment to reduce drug use among young people.

Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.

Seven Steps To Take

  • Build a drug-free school zone coalition that includes representatives from law enforcement, schools, parent groups, civic clubs, youth organizations, businesses, religious institutions, local government, drug treatment centers, other social service agencies, public housing authorities, and the courts.
  • Mobilize the community ? talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community's drug problems
  • Create a shared vision of a safe and drug-free environment for children. Set goals and design strategies to meet them.
  • Establish the drug-free school zone by researching laws and establishing formal partnership agreements with school administrators, city officials, and law enforcement. Name a coordinator, measure and map the zone, post signs (check with law enforcement and city officials regarding wording and placement), and publicize the project. Kick off with special school assemblies, a parents' organization meeting, a proclamation, and press conference.
  • Mobilize the community ? talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community's drug problems.
  • Celebrate successes with award ceremonies, family events, posters, publicity, and T-shirts. Have young people plan and run a drug-free celebration.
  • Don't stop at the school's boundaries. Expand your drug-free zone efforts to any area besieged by problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.

Bullies: A Serious Problem for Kids

Bullying behavior may seem rather insignificant compared to kids bringing guns to school and getting involved with drugs. Bullying is often dismissed as part of growing up. But it's actually an early form of aggressive, violent behavior. Statistics show that one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30.

Bullies often cause serious problems that schools, families, and neighbors ignore. Teasing at bus stops, taking another child's lunch money insults and threats, kicking or shoving -- it's all fair game to a bully Fears and anxieties about bullies can cause some children to avoid school, carry a weapon for protection, or even commit more violent activity

A Word About the Victim

Although anyone can be the target of bullying behavior, the victim is often singled out because of his or her psychological traits more than his or her physical traits. A typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Some children are picked on for physical reasons such as being overweight or physically small, having a disability, or belonging to a different race or religious faith.

A Word About the Bully

Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They get their way by brute force or openly harassing someone. This type of bully rejects rules and regulations and needs to rebel to achieve a feeling of superiority and security. Other bullies are more reserved and manipulative and may not want to be recognized as harassers or tormentors. They try to control by smooth-talking, saying the "right" thing at the "right" time, and lying. This type of bully gets his or her power discreetly through cunning, manipulation, and deception.

As different as these two types may seem, all bullies have some characteristics in common. They:
  • are concerned with their own pleasure
  • want power over others
  • are willing to use and abuse other people to get what they want
  • feel pain inside, perhaps because of their own shortcomings
  • find it difficult to see things from someone else's perspective

What You Can Do

  • Listen to children. Encourage children to talk about school, social events, other kids in class, the walk or ride to and from school so you can identify any problems they may be having.
  • Take children's complaints of bullying seriously. Probing a seemingly minor complaint may uncover more severe grievances. Children are often afraid or ashamed to tell anyone that they have been bullied, so listen to their complaints.
  • Watch for symptoms that children may be bullying victims, such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes, or needing extra money or supplies.
  • Tell the school or organization immediately if you think that your children are being bullied. Alerted caregivers can carefully monitor your children's actions and take steps to ensure your children's safety.
  • Work with other parents to ensure that the children in your neighborhood are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
  • Don't bully your children yourself, physically or verbally. Use nonphysical, consistently enforced discipline measures as opposed to ridiculing, yelling at, or ignoring your children when they misbehave.
  • Help children learn the social skills they need to make friends. A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
  • Praise children's kindness toward others. Let children know that kindness is valued.
  • Teach children ways to resolve arguments without violent words or actions. Teach children self-protection skills -- how to walk confidently, stay alert to what's going on around them, and to stand up for themselves verbally.
  • Provide opportunities for children to talk about bullying, perhaps when watching TV together, reading aloud, playing a game, or going to the park or a movie.
  • Recognize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity, anger, or loneliness. If your child is a bully, help get to the root of the problem. Seek out specific strategies you can use at home from a teacher, school counselor, or child psychologist.

Stand Up and Start a School Crime Watch Today

Are you tired of graffiti on your school's walls? Have some students started bringing weapons to school? Is fighting on school property giving you the blues? Are there days when you are afraid to go to school? Maybe your school is fine and you want to prevent crime before it becomes a problem? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions or your school is struggling with other crime problems, then a school crime watch might be an answer.

What Is a School Crime Watch?

Based on the Neighborhood Watch concept, a school crime watch encourages students to watch out and help out each other to make the entire school a safer and more enjoyable place. It's a student-led effort that helps youth take a share of responsibility for their school community. Students learn how to keep themselves from becoming victims of crime and how to report suspicious activities. In some cases there's an organized patrol that helps ensure the school's public areas are watched appropriately. The attractiveness of a school crime watch program is that a school of any size, in any type of community -- rural, suburban, inner-city -- can adopt its principles at minimum cost!

Starting a School Crime Watch

A group of dedicated teens willing to work together to bring the entire student body into a crime watch way of life can start a school crime watch program by:
  • Researching what crime problems -- vandalism, assault, theft -- are most common at the school and what prevention strategies could prove effective;
  • Working with the school authorities including the principal and the person in charge of security to get their support for the program;
  • Establishing an advisory board made up of students and adults;
  • Talking to your local crime prevention officer about starting the program, and
  • Setting up a central group of individuals in charge of the crime watch -- sometimes called the core group (This group must be made up of students from all kinds of groups, so that no group will feel excluded.);
  • Deciding how you will launch the program. An exciting way to kickoff the program is through an all-school assembly or rally. This will help build support and generate interest;
  • Advertising your first school crime watch meeting through fliers, posters, morning public address announcements, even email;
  • Holding your first meeting to discuss the make up of the crime watch, the issues that need to be addressed, and the need for a school patrol. If you choose to have a school patrol your committee will need to identify sites to monitor;
  • Telling the adult community that your school is starting a school crime watch;
  • Planning your calendar of crime watch events.

What is a Student Patrol?

One powerful component of a school crime watch can be a student patrol. This moves the program from an information and teaching mode into action. Patrol activities include monitoring the halls and parking lots between classes and during lunch. This action can reduce the number of crime-related incidents in the patrolled areas.

Communicating Is Key to Success

Communication is critical to a school crime watch program. Students report crime because it is a serious issue -- not to get someone they don't like into trouble. Not reporting can place a student in a threatening situation. It is a school crime watch's responsibility to keep all reports confidential. If students start finding out about who reported on whom, people won't continue to participate in the program. Students reporting must know that they will be anonymous.

Helping Out Builds Momentum for the Program

A school crime watch goes beyond just watching out for its fellow classmates. Activities such as drug- and alcohol-free parties, date rape/rape awareness days, newspaper columns in the school or local paper, and crime and drug abuse prevention tips announced on the P.A. system are ways to build interest in your program. Longer term projects that promote student well-being include conflict resolution projects, cross-age teaching and mentoring, vandalism prevention, even bus safety.

Examining the Results

Do school crime watch programs work? Yes! Crime dropped 45 percent at one high school in Florida within a year of initiating a school crime watch! Active school crime watch programs in schools across the country have been able to reduce violence, guns, drug use, and many of the other things that come with crime. The schools with active watches are happier, safer places.

Tips for Working Together to Create Safer Schools

When crime, drugs, and violence spill over from the streets into the schools, a safe learning environment becomes increasingly difficult. Students carry weapons for protection. Gunfights start replacing fist- fights. Many students must travel through gang turf or groups of drug dealers just to get to school. Violence seems to become an acceptable way to settle conflicts. And drugs make it hard for users ? and others ? to learn. Students cannot learn and teachers cannot teach.

Addressing the violence issue is difficult and complex; however, there are ways to create a safer environment in which to learn. Teens can't do it alone because there needs to be a community-wide effort addressing the issue. They need help from others. But teens can take the lead. Creating a safe place where you can learn and grow depends on a partnership among students, parents, teachers, and other community institutions to prevent school violence. Think about the issues that affect your school, and see how you or a team of people can make a difference in addressing the problem. Here are some suggestions on how you can involve other students, parents, school staff and others in the community to help create a safe school.

Students

  • Settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons. If your school doesn't have a conflict mediation program, help start one.
  • Don't carry guns, knives, or other weapons to school. Tell a school official immediately if you see another student with a gun, knife, or other weapon.
  • Report crimes or suspicious activities to the police, school authorities, or parents.
  • Tell a teacher, parent, or trusted adult if you're worried about a bully or threats of violence by another student.
  • Learn safe routes for traveling to and from school and stick to them. Know good places to seek help.
  • Help start a mediation program in your school. Or help begin a student court that hears cases on violations on school policies ? fighting, stealing, or cheating.
  • Get involved in your school's anti-violence activities ? have poster contests against violence, hold anti-drug rallies, volunteer to counsel peers. If there's no peer counseling program at your school, help start one.

Parents

If it's talking straight with your parents about school issues or working with the PTA on holding meetings to educate adults about drugs in your community, parents must be involved in creating a safer school.
Encourage parents to:
  • spend time with you, attend the activities you're involved in, or just have dinner together.
  • teach children how to reduce their risks of becoming crime victims.
  • know where children are, what they are doing, and whom they are with at all times. Set clear rules in advance about acceptable activities.
  • ask children about what goes on during the school day. Listen to what they say and take their concerns and worries seriously.
  • help children learn nonviolent ways to handle frustration, anger, and conflict.
  • refuse to allow children to carry guns, knives, or other weapons.
  • become involved in school activities ? PTA, field trips, and helping in class or the lunch room.

School Staff

The school staff including the administration must be behind any effort to create a safer school. Here are a few ideas of how the school can be involved in this effort. School staff and administrators can:

  • Evaluate school's safety objectively. Set targets for improvement. Be honest about crime problems and work toward bettering the situation.
  • Develop consistent disciplinary policies, good security procedures, and response plans for emergencies.
  • Train school personnel in conflict resolution, problem solving, drug prevention, crisis intervention, cultural sensitivity, classroom management, and counseling skills. Make sure they can recognize trouble signs and identify potentially violent students.
  • Encourage students to talk about worries, questions, and fears about what's going on in their schools, homes, and neighborhoods. Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Take seriously students who make threats ? even if it's in writing.
  • Take time to talk about violence or frightening experiences that occur at school or in the neighborhood. Discuss the consequences and get students to think about what other choices besides violence might have been available. Get help from trained counselors, if necessary.
  • Work with students, parents, law enforcement, local governments, and community based groups to develop wider-scope crime prevention efforts.
  • Be open to student-led solutions.

Community Partners

Look to community partners to enrich and make your school safer.
  • Law enforcement can report on the type of crimes in the surrounding community and suggest ways to make schools safer.
  • Police or organized groups of adults can patrol routes students take to and from school.
  • Community-based groups, church organizations, and other service groups can provide counseling, extended learning programs, before- and after-school activities, and other community crime prevention programs.
  • State and local governments can develop model school safety plans and provide funding for schools to implement the programs.
  • Local businesses can provide apprenticeship programs, participate in adopt-a-school programs, or serve as mentors to area students.
  • Colleges and universities can offer conflict management courses to teachers or assist school officials in implementing violence prevention curricula.

Take Action

  • Recruit other teens, parents, school staff, police to develop safe school task force.
  • Start a conflict resolution program in your school.
  • Set up a group for teens to share problems and solutions.
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council