The Prevention of School Violence
There is no mistaking the fact that the prevention of school violence takes diligence and inclusion from school systems, student bodies, and teachers. In 1994, when the Improving America's School Act was passed, the federal government was quick to issue grants and teacher resources to schools in need. Since this time and the availability of teacher resources, schools nationwide have seen a drastic reduction in violent crimes that occur on school grounds.
The Peaceful School International program has worked hard to bring methods for the prevention of school violence to the classroom. Safe schools are considered those were students, staff, and parents feel safe, valued, and respected. The measures to make schools peaceful were largely integrated from the responses and research by seasoned educators. The first step in preventing school violence is implementing a concise and zero tolerance policy system wide. These policies should be signed by both students and parents and swift action to enforce must be taken in every instance.
The next step in the prevention of school violence is for schools to non-violent seminars during and beyond the classroom. Teacher resources are available for teachers to provide communication skills and non-violent solutions to problems that students face every day. Additionally, lesson plans should be drafted to include tolerance tactics and cultural awareness so that students are able to see through their ethnic differences. School systems and teachers must stress involvement in these programs and allow them to coexist with subjects like math or science and prove not only relevant but also important. Social workers agree that teachers often have the best vantage point for teaching their students about civility and social responsibility even if these subjects are challenged at home. By introducing teacher worksheets and other resources into the classroom and following them up with assemblies about safety and non-violence students are exposed to a well-rounded approach to becoming non-violent.
Many school systems in the United States provide professional training for teachers and reach out through the schools to the community. When the school system offers professional training to staff, they become a stronger unit against crisis situations, racism, and gender issues that may arise at school. Often, teachers interested can find grants for this continued education at http://www2.ed.gov/.
When teaching preventative measures to school violence, schools should utilize models to incorporate drug free schools by educating students about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and the impact they have on violence in schools. Additionally, educators and administration should petition school boards to incorporate safe school strategies into the curriculum at all costs. Staff members should be offered training and school management tactics need to be put into place. Once a zero tolerance program is initiated, school systems experiencing problems with violence should consider utilizing video cameras, voice monitoring devices, metal detectors and other means of protection to show that they remain committed to their stand to violence as well as proactive in ways to stop it.
When students see that school systems are making the prevention of school violence a long-term commitment and are given tools to make changes to their attitudes and behaviors, schools can see a large decrease in violent activities and drug use.
Surveying K-12 Teachers: Do You Feel Prepared to Respond to and Cope with School Violence?
The topic of school violence has been one of national concern since the Columbine tragedy of 1999, and discussions of school safety and security have once again been brought to the forefront as the United States grieves the recent devastating loss of young children and school staff members from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Such horrific instances of mass school violence are rare occurrences, falling at the most extreme end of a continuum of school violence that includes a wide range of behaviors and individuals. However, lower levels of school violence are much more common occurrences, and many teachers are likely to be faced with some form of school violence at throughout their careers.
While a great amount of scholarly literature addresses school violence, a very minimal number of these research studies examine the role of teachers. When the occurrence of school violence is analyzed through an ecological perspective (i.e., Bronfenbrenner, 1979), it allows consideration of how school violence is influenced by individual, classroom, school, and community factors. The argument is made that various risk and protective factors across different system levels interact reciprocally to create a cycle of school violence. Therefore, teachers play an important role in the cycle of school violence through influencing risk and protective factors, including assuming the role of victims of school violence.
Due to the recognized shortage of literature addressing teachers and school violence, the American Psychological Association (APA) has formed a Classroom Violence Directed Against Teachers Task Force and has proposed a national research agenda to better understand teacher experiences with school violence and teacher victimization (APA, 2010). Research indicates that rates of teacher experiences with school violence and victimization are higher than previously thought, with 50% or more teachers in some samples reporting victimization at least once in their careers (McMahon et al., 2011; Wilson et al., 2011). Literature supports that teachers who are exposed to violence are at increased risk for developing negative emotional affect, such as feelings of guilt, failure, under appreciation, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms (Galand et al., 2007; Mallet & Paty, 1999). Negative emotional affect resulting from work-related stress is represented by the construct of burnout, which consists of symptoms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal accomplishment (Boles et al., 2000), and a small number of studies support that teachers' experiences with school violence can result in teacher burnout (e.g., Buck, 2006; Hastings & Baum, 2003). In addition, teacher perceived risk of victimization results in negative affect consistent with actual teacher victimization (Galand et al., 2007). Such preliminary research suggests that teachers who are directly victimized, and those who are merely exposed to school violence or who feel at risk for victimization, may be at risk for decreased well-being.
Despite the fact that many teachers face the challenges of school violence during their careers, research has indicated that few teachers report feeling prepared to respond to instances of violence in the workplace prior to entering the field (Kandakai & King, 2002). It is not clear if teachers are receiving adequate training to equip them with strategies and coping skills for dealing with school violence (APA, 2010; Sela-Shayovitz, 2009). Research has shown that training on strategies for responding to school violence in experimental situations has led to increased teacher self-efficacy in handling violent events (Sela-Shayovitz, 2009). There is also literature that suggests that having training or specialization in certain areas may shape teachers' role expectations regarding working with students who present with challenging or violent behaviors, and thereby reduce the associated potential negative emotional consequences in dealing with such behaviors (e.g. Morgan & Reinhart, 1985). Hence, training may assist in shaping teacher perceptions in their confidence and role in responding to instances of school violence. However, it is unclear if teachers are receiving related training in real-life scenarios.
Research is needed to determine if teachers are receiving training related to school violence, and if such training serves to better prepare them for school violence and to cope with such experiences. My research project, entitled “The relationship between teacher training, perceptions of school violence, and burnout,” seeks to fill the gaps in the literature on teachers and school violence by exploring the amount and type of training related to school violence that teachers have received. This study is also exploring the relationship between training experiences and teachers' thoughts and feelings regarding school violence and related burnout. I would like to learn about your experiences, and would like to invite you to fill out a survey questionnaire. If you are currently employed as a teacher, are at least 21 years old, and are interested in participating, please click on the link below and follow the instructions to the survey. Individuals eligible to complete the survey can opt to enter a raffle drawing for one of five $200 Amazon.com gift certificates if they so choose to disclose their email address to claim the prize. Please see the survey link below for a full explanation of raffle regulations on the final page of the survey. Submission of the completed survey or response to any item is not necessary to access this information in the link or for participation in the raffle.