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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Less Reactive, More Proactive: Violence Prevention and Crisis Management

The recent estimate of school associated violent deaths is 14 homicides and 3 suicides. An estimated 1.5 million non-fatal crimes have occurred at school, 628,200 violent crimes (simple assault to serious injury) have been committed. According to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), 86% of our public schools report that at least one violent crime occurred at their facility during the 2005-2006 school year.

The crimes include physical assault on a student or staff member with or without a weapon, threats of injury with or without a weapon to self or to others, possession of weapons, sexual harassment, verbal abuse and bullying, and terroristic threats.

Most public schools employ a Zero Tolerance Policy to remove student offenders. If a student with an educational disability is the perpetrator of the offence, IEP teams are called upon at this point to possibly intervene with an FBA and BIP. In addition to post-violence intervention, what actions can/should the school psychologist take in the prevention of violent behavior school wide?

Likewise for crisis management – the procedures followed immediately after an incidence or threat of violence. School psychologists play an important role as a school-based mental health professional and a link to family and the community during and after a crisis situation. What measures can the school psychologist take to reduce the number of crisis situations? Can school psychologists help school systems become more proactive in regard to crisis and violence, thereby maintaining a safe haven of academic achievement and social growth? What are the ethical and legal implications of dealing with crises and violent crimes within the schools?

This blog was created by Judy Lamanna


vincent said...

I think it's good that we collectively provide input about anti-violence prevention in schools because I don't believe that a one size fits all model is applicable. The school district you're in and how prevalent violence is in the surrounding neighborhoods may play a role in influencing violent behavior in students. On a smaller scale, children's individual temperaments and violence that may or may not exist at home will also impact how they behave. With all these factors potentially shaping violent behavior, it only makes sense that you would need various preventative measures in place. I think that violence prevention begins with appropriately defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, many of us who have grown up in nicer areas and in stable homes take for granted the fact that we know right from wrong. We assume that all children know hitting is wrong, for example, when in fact they may not know that. For students who live in unsafe areas where gangs may strongly influence the way they behave it might be appropriate to be physicially aggressive. Even in more affluent areas there may be dysfunctional homes in which children are brought up not knowing what's truly acceptable behavior. I think you begin anti-violence campaigns in schools by having students take mandatory life skills courses that cover these types of social issues. Teachers may be able to present material regarding behavior that students would not have otherwise been exposed to if they've only seen the way life exists within their home/neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

With these startling numbers it seems almost inane to continue reactive interventions to school violence.

As this blogger states, it is the duty of a school psychologist to proactively intervene, however, it seems to me that the question is not, “Do we intervene?” rather “What should be addressed during our intervention?” Is the typical psycho-educational group enough?

I think NOT!

It IS imperative for school professionals to educate about the nature and statistics of such heinous occurrence. More importantly, it behooves the school psychologist to research and consider the environmental strains and stressors of that particular area. Students should be encouraged to develop coping skills for these issues in an appropriate forum that suits the style of the students of each district such as group, informal social gatherings, etc. In essence, it is the issues of environmental strife and a weak coping style that may contribute to the act of violence in schools.

Katie said...

As a school psychologist our role in violence prevention is only as large as we make it. Schools tend to have a zero tolerance policy against bullying/aggressive behavior. This policy is accepted by both the parent and student, but this is not enough.

Students need to know how to handle feelings such as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness,etc and how to appropriate ways to cope with them instead of hitting or hurting someone else.

Like Vinny said it is not safe to assume that all children know the difference between acceptable and unaccpetable behavior. Guidelines and standards for each should also be distributed to each student so they are aware of what the school's policy entails.

Rosa said...

I think it is imperative that all faculty, staff, students, and administration are trained in crisis prevention and are aware of crisis procedures. Similar to fire alarm drills, we need to have drills that account for shooting sprees in schools. There needs to be a system in place instructing everyone in the building of the emergency and what to do. Obviously, running into the halls hysterical is not going to prevent people from getting hurt. This may seem to be reactive, but in reality I believe it is a proactive measure to remain safe when let's face, anything can happen. If it is a high crime area, we should have security guards at every entrance of the school, sign in sheets at the doors, and metal detectors.
We need to pay attention to our students and look for signs of emotional distress and make referrals to a counselor if we notice students being picked on, isolating from other students, etc. All of these measures may prevent a child from lashing out. We also want to pay attention to clothing. Very baggy clothing can allow for guns to be brought into the schools unnoticed. I think the key to prevention is having a plan in place in the event of a crisis, and simply paying attention to our students and getting them help as soon as possible.

mike c said...

To me, the violence issue is similar to the cyber bullying issue as far as parental awareness, supervision, and prevention. Why was Dylan Kleibold (spelling?) able to have such an arsenal of weapons in his own home? ok a kid is in crisis I'll finish this post later.