School Violence Prevention and Intervention
Schools and Special Education
Functional Behavioral Assessment
Prevention Strategies that Work
Prevention and Early Intervention
Promising Practice in Children's Mental Health
Strengthening the Safety Net
Early Warning, Timely Response
A Guide to Safe Schools: The Referenced Edition
The full text of this public domain publication
is available at the Department's home page at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/earlywrn.html
and in alternate formats upon request. For more information,
please contact us at:
For printed copies of the guide, please contact ED PUBS toll-free at 1-877-4ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827), or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For copies of the guide in alternative formats, please contact:
The development of this guide was supported by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, Office of Special Education Programs, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Dissemination of the guide was supported by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.
Dwyer, K., Osher, D., and Warger, C., Bear, G., Haynes, N., Knoff, H., Kingery, P., Sheras, P., Skiba, R., Skinner, L., & Stockton, B. (1998). Early warning, timely response: A guide to safe schools: The referenced edition. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
Dear Principal and Teachers:
On June 13, after the tragic loss of life and injuries at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, President Clinton directed the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to develop an early warning guide to help "adults reach out to troubled children quickly and effectively." This guide responds to that Presidential request. It is our sincere hope that this guide will provide you with the practical help needed to keep every child in your school out of harm's way.
America's schools are among the safest places to be on a day-to-day basis, due to the strong commitment of educators, parents, and communities to their children. Nevertheless, last year's tragic and sudden acts of violence in our nation's schools remind us that no community can be complacent in its efforts to make its schools even safer. An effective and safe school is the vital center of every community whether it is in a large urban area or a small rural community.
Central to this guide are the key insights that keeping children safe is a community-wide effort and that effective schools create environments where children and young people truly feel connected. This is why our common goal must be to reconnect with every child and particularly with those young people who are isolated and troubled.
This guide should be seen as part of an overall effort to make sure that every school in this nation has a comprehensive violence prevention plan in place. We also caution you to recognize that over labeling and using this guide to stigmatize children in a cursory way that leads to over-reaction is harmful. The guidelines in this report are based on research and the positive experiences of schools around the country where the value and potential of each and every child is cherished and where good practices have produced, and continue to produce, successful students and communities.
We are grateful to the many experts, agencies, and associations in education, law enforcement, juvenile justice, mental health, and other social services that worked closely with us to make sure that this report is available for the start of school this fall. We hope that you and your students and staff, as well as parents and the community, will benefit from this information.
Richard W. Riley
A Guide to Safe Schools
Although most schools are safe, the violence that occurs in our neighborhoods and communities has found its way inside the schoolhouse door (Sheley, McGee, & Wright, 1995). However, if we understand what leads to violence and the types of support that research has shown are effective in preventing violence, we can make our schools safer.
Research-based practices can help school communities-administrators, teachers, families, students, support staff, and community members-recognize the warning signs early, so children can get the help they need before it is too late. This guide presents a brief summary of the research on violence prevention and intervention and crisis response in schools. It tells school communities:
Sections in this guide include:
A final section lists resources that can be contacted for more information.
The information in this guide is not intended as a comprehensive prevention, intervention, and response plan--school communities could do everything recommended and still experience violence. Rather, the intent is to provide school communities with reliable and practical information about what they can do to be prepared and to reduce the likelihood of violence.
The full text of this public domain publication is available at the Department's home page at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/earlywrn.html.
A Guide to Safe Schools
Most schools are safe. Although fewer than one percent of all violent deaths of children occur on school grounds-indeed, a child is far more likely to be killed in the community or at home (Kingery, Coggeshall, & Alford, 1998) -- no school is immune.
The violence that occurs in our neighborhoods and communities has found its way inside the schoolhouse door. And while we can take some solace in the knowledge that schools are among the safest places for young people, we must do more. School violence reflects a much broader problem, one that can only be addressed when everyone--at school, at home, and in the community--works together.
The 1997-1998 school year served as a dramatic wake-up call to the fact that guns do come to school, and some students will use them to kill. One after the other, school communities across the country-from Oregon to Virginia, from Arkansas to Pennsylvania, from Mississippi to Kentucky-have been forced to face the fact that violence can happen to them. And while these serious incidents trouble us deeply, they should not prevent us from acting to prevent school violence of any kind.
There is ample documentation that prevention and early intervention efforts can reduce violence and other troubling behaviors in schools (Coie & Jacobs, 1993; Elias & Tobias, 1996 ). Research-based practices can help school communities recognize the warning signs early, so children can get the help they need before it is too late. In fact, research suggests that some of the most promising prevention and intervention strategies involve the entire educational community--administrators, teachers, families, students, support staff, and community members--working together to form positive relationships with all children (Cornell, 1998, Quinn, Osher, Hoffman, and Hanley, 1998).
If we understand what leads to violence and the types of support that research has shown are effective in preventing violence and other troubling behaviors, we can make our schools safer.
This guide presents a brief summary of the research on violence prevention and intervention and crisis response in schools (see Section 8 for a review of methodology and information on how to locate the research). It tells members of school communities-especially administrators, teachers, staff, families, students, and community-based professionals:
The information in each section is not intended as a comprehensive prevention, intervention, and response system or plan. Indeed, school violence occurs in a unique context in every school and every situation, making a one-size-fits-all scheme impossible. Moreover, school communities could do everything recommended and still experience violence. Rather, this guide is designed to provide school communities with reliable and practical information about what they can do to be prepared and to reduce the likelihood of violence.
Creating a safe school requires having in place many preventive measures for children's mental and emotional problems (Quinn et al., 1998) -- as well as a comprehensive approach to early identification of all warning signs that might lead to violence toward self or others. The term "violence" as used in this booklet, refers to a broad range of troubling behaviors and emotions shown by students-including serious aggression, physical attacks, suicide, dangerous use of drugs, and other dangerous interpersonal behaviors. However, the early warning signs presented in this document focus primarily on aggressive and violent behaviors toward others. The guide does not attempt to address all of the warning signs related to depression and suicide. Nevertheless, some of the signs of potential violence toward others are also signs of depression and suicidal risk, which should be addressed through early identification and appropriate intervention (Maag & Forness, 1991; Poland, 1995; Reynolds, 1990).
All staff, students, parents, and members of the community must be part of creating a safe school environment:
Research and expert-based information offers a wealth of knowledge about preventing violence in schools. The following sections provide information-what to look for and what to do-that school communities can use when developing or enhancing violence prevention and response plans (see Section 5 for more information about these plans).
We hope that school communities will use this document as a guide as they begin the prevention and healing process today, at all age and grade levels, and for all students.
Characteristics of a School That Is Safe and Responsive to All Children
Well functioning schools foster learning, safety, and socially appropriate behaviors. They have a strong academic focus and support students in achieving high standards, foster positive relationships between school staff and students, and promote meaningful parental and community involvement. Most prevention programs in effective schools address multiple factors and recognize that safety and order are related to children's social, emotional, and academic development (Knoff & Batsche, 1995).
Effective prevention, intervention, and crisis response strategies operate best in school communities that:
Research has demonstrated repeatedly that school communities can do a great deal to prevent violence. Having in place a safe and responsive foundation helps all children-and it enables school communities to provide more efficient and effective services to students who need more support (Cotton, 1995, Quinn et al., 1998). The next step is to learn the early warning signs of a child who is troubled, so that effective interventions can be provided.
Early Warning Signs
Why didn't we see it coming? In the wake of violence, we ask this question not so much to place blame, but to understand better what we can do to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. We review over and over in our minds the days leading up to the incident--did the child say or do anything that would have cued us in to the impending crisis? Did we miss an opportunity to help?
There are early warning signs in most cases of violence to self and others--certain behavioral and emotional signs that, when viewed in context, can signal a troubled child (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Poland & Pitcher, 1990). But early warning signs are just that-indicators that a student may need help.
Such signs may or may not indicate a serious problem--they do not necessarily mean that a child is prone to violence toward self or others (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, Feil, Severson, & Walker, 1998, Feil, Walker, & Severson, 1995). Rather, early warning signs provide us with the impetus to check out our concerns and address the child's needs. Early warning signs allow us to act responsibly by getting help for the child before problems escalate.
Early warning signs can help frame concern for a child. However, it is important to avoid inappropriately labeling or stigmatizing individual students because they appear to fit a specific profile or set of early warning indicators. It's okay to be worried about a child, but it's not okay to overreact and jump to conclusions.
Teachers and administrators--and other school support staff--are not professionally trained to analyze children's feelings and motives. But they are on the front line when it comes to observing troublesome behavior and making referrals to appropriate professionals, such as school psychologists, social workers, counselors, and nurses. They also play a significant role in responding to diagnostic information provided by specialists. Thus, it is no surprise that effective schools take special care in training the entire school community to understand and identify early warning signs.
When staff members seek help for a troubled child, when friends report worries about a peer or friend, when parents raise concerns about their child's thoughts or habits, children can get the help they need. By actively sharing information, a school community can provide quick, effective responses.
Educators and families can increase their ability to recognize early warning signs by establishing close, caring, and supportive relationships with children and youth--getting to know them well enough to be aware of their needs, feelings, attitudes, and behavior patterns. Educators and parents together can review school records for patterns of behavior or sudden changes in behavior.
Unfortunately, there is a real danger that early warning signs will be misinterpreted. Educators and parents--and in some cases, students--can ensure that the early warning signs are not misinterpreted by using several significant principles to better understand them. These principles include:
It is not always possible to predict behavior that will lead to violence (White, Moffitt, Earls, Robins, & Silva, 1990). However, educators and parents--and sometimes students--can recognize certain early warning signs. In some situations and for some youth, different combinations of events, behaviors, and emotions may lead to aggressive rage or violent behavior toward self or others (Shields, Cicchetti, & Ryan, 1994). A good rule of thumb is to assume that these warning signs, especially when they are presented in combination, indicate a need for further analysis to determine an appropriate intervention.
We know from research that most children who become violent toward self or others feel rejected and psychologically victimized (Guerra, Huesmann, Tolan, Van Acker, & Eron, 1995). In most cases, children exhibit aggressive behavior early in life and, if not provided support, will continue a progressive developmental pattern toward severe aggression or violence (Olweus, 1980, Walker et al., 1995; Walker, Stieber, & O'Neill, 1990). However, research also shows that when children have a positive, meaningful connection to an adult--whether it be at home, in school, or in the community--the potential for violence is reduced significantly (Eccles et al., 1993; Finn, 1989, Werner, 1989, Werner, 1993).
None of these signs alone is sufficient for predicting aggression and violence. Moreover, it is inappropriate--and potentially harmful--to use the early warning signs as a checklist against which to match individual children. Rather, the early warning signs are offered only as an aid in identifying and referring children who may need help. School communities must ensure that staff and students only use the early warning signs for identification and referral purposes-only trained professionals should make diagnoses in consultation with the child's parents or guardian.
The following early warning signs are presented with the following qualifications: They are not equally significant and they are not presented in order of seriousness. The early warning signs include:
Unlike early warning signs, imminent warning signs indicate that a student is very close to behaving in a way that is potentially dangerous to self and/or to others. Imminent warning signs require an immediate response.
No single warning sign can predict that a dangerous act will occur. Rather, imminent warning signs usually are presented as a sequence of overt, serious, hostile behaviors or threats directed at peers, staff, or other individuals. Usually, imminent warning signs are evident to more than one staff member--as well as to the child's family.
Imminent warning signs may include:
When warning signs indicate that danger is imminent, safety must always be the first and foremost consideration. Action must be taken immediately. Immediate intervention by school authorities and possibly law enforcement officers is needed when a child:
In situations where students present other threatening behaviors, parents should be informed of the concerns immediately. School communities also have the responsibility to seek assistance from appropriate agencies, such as child and family services and community mental health. These responses should reflect school board policies and be consistent with the violence prevention and response plan (for more information see Section 5).
Using the Early Warning Signs To Shape Intervention Practices
An early warning sign is not a predictor that a
child or youth will commit a violent act toward self or others. Effective
schools recognize the potential in every child to overcome difficult experiences
and to control negative emotions. Adults in these school communities use their
knowledge of early warning signs to address problems before they escalate into
Each school community should develop a procedure that students and staff can follow when reporting their concerns about a child who exhibits early warning signs (Walker & Severson, 1992). For example, in many schools the principal is the first point of contact. In cases that do not pose imminent danger, the principal contacts a school psychologist or other qualified professional, who takes responsibility for addressing the concern immediately. If the concern is determined to be serious--but not to pose a threat of imminent danger--the child's family should be contacted. The family should be consulted before implementing any interventions with the child. In cases where school-based contextual factors are determined to be causing or exacerbating the child's troubling behavior, the school should act quickly to modify them.
It is often difficult to acknowledge that a child is troubled. Everyone--including administrators, families, teachers, school staff, students, and community members--may find it too troubling sometimes to admit that a child close to them needs help. When faced with resistance or denial, school communities must persist to ensure that children get the help they need.
Understanding early and imminent warning signs is an essential step in ensuring a safe school. The next step involves supporting the emotional and behavioral adjustment of children.
Intervention: Getting Help for Troubled Children
Prevention approaches have proved effective in enabling school communities to decrease the frequency and intensity of behavior problems (Hunter & Elias, 1998). However, prevention programs alone cannot eliminate the problems of all students. Some 5 to 10 percent of students will need more intensive interventions to decrease their high-risk behaviors, although the percentage can vary among schools and communities (Sugai & Horner, in press).
What happens when we recognize early warning signs in a child?
The message is clear: It's okay to be concerned when you notice warning signs in a child-and it's even more appropriate to do something about those concerns. School communities that encourage staff, families, and students to raise concerns about observed warning signs--and that have in place a process for getting help to troubled children once they are identified--are more likely to have effective schools with reduced disruption, bullying, fighting, and other forms of aggression.
Violence prevention and response plans should consider both prevention and intervention. Plans also should provide all staff with easy access to a team of specialists trained in evaluating serious behavioral and academic concerns. Eligible students should have access to special education services, and classroom teachers should be able to consult school psychologists, other mental health specialists, counselors, reading specialists, and special educators.
Effective practices for improving the behavior of troubled children are well documented in the research literature. Research has shown that effective interventions are culturally appropriate, family-supported, individualized, coordinated, and monitored (Fradd, Weissmantel, Corria, & Algozzine, 1990). Further, interventions are more effective when they are designed and implemented consistently over time with input from the child, the family, and appropriate professionals (Goldstein & Conoley, 1997; Martin & Waltman Greenwood, 1995; Vickers & Minke, 1997). Schools also can draw upon the resources of their community to strengthen and enhance intervention planning.
When drafting a violence prevention and response plan, it is helpful to consider certain principles that research or expert-based experience show have a significant impact on success. The principles include:
Violent behavior is a problem for everyone. It is a normal response to become angry or even frightened in the presence of a violent child. But, it is essential that these emotional reactions be controlled. The goal must always be to ensure safety and seek help for the child.
The incidence of violent acts against students or staff is low. However, pre-violent behaviors-such as threats, bullying, and classroom disruptions-are common. Thus, early responses to warning signs are most effective in preventing problems from escalating (Walker et al., 1995).
Intervention programs that reduce behavior problems and related school violence typically are multifaceted, long-term, and broad reaching (Kazdin, 1991). They also are rigorously implemented. Effective early intervention efforts include working with small groups or individual students to provide direct support, as well as linking children and their families to necessary community services and/or providing these services in the school (Kazdin, 1993; Reid, 1993).
Examples of early intervention components that work include:
In some cases, more comprehensive early interventions are called for to address the needs of troubled children. Focused, coordinated, proven interventions reduce violent behavior. Following are several comprehensive approaches that effective schools are using to provide early intervention to students who are at risk of becoming violent toward themselves or others.
Intervention Tactic: Teaching Positive Interaction Skills
Although most schools do teach positive social interaction skills indirectly, some have adopted social skills programs specifically designed to prevent or reduce antisocial behavior in troubled children. In fact, the direct teaching of social problem solving and social decision making is now a standard feature of most effective drug and violence prevention programs (Gresham et al., 1998; Knoff & Batsche, 1995; Lochman, Dunn, & Klimes-Dougan, 1993). Children who are at risk of becoming violent toward themselves or others need additional support. They often need to learn interpersonal, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills at home and in school. They also may need more intensive assistance in learning how to stop and think before they react, and to listen effectively (Gresham et al., 1998; Knoff & Batsche, 1995).
Intervention Tactic: Providing Comprehensive Services
In some cases, the early intervention may involve getting services to families. The violence prevention and response team together with the child and family designs a comprehensive intervention plan that focuses on reducing aggressive behaviors and supporting responsible behaviors at school, in the home, and in the community. When multiple services are required there also must be psychological counseling and ongoing consultation with classroom teachers, school staff, and the family to ensure intended results occur (Guerra, Tolan, & Hammond, 1994; Osher & Osher, 1996). All services-including community services-must be coordinated and progress must be monitored and evaluated carefully (Poland, 1994).
Intervention Tactic: Referring the Child for Special Education Evaluation
If there is evidence of persistent problem behavior or poor academic achievement, it may be appropriate to conduct a formal assessment to determine if the child is disabled and eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If a multidisciplinary team determines that the child is eligible for services under the IDEA, an individualized educational program (IEP) should be developed by a team that includes a parent, a regular educator, a special educator, an evaluator, a representative of the local school district, the child (if appropriate), and others as appropriate. This team will identify the support necessary to enable the child to learn-including the strategies and support systems necessary to address any behavior that may impede the child's learning or the learning of his or her peers.
Children who show dangerous patterns and a potential for more serious violence usually require more intensive interventions that involve multiple agencies, community-based service providers, and intense family support. By working with families and community services, schools can comprehensively and effectively intervene.
Effective individualized interventions provide a range of services for students. Multiple, intensive, focused approaches used over time can reduce the chances for continued offenses and the potential for violence (Scattergood, Dash, Epstein, & Adler, 1998; Taylor-Greene et al., 1997). The child, his or her family, and appropriate school staff should be involved in developing and monitoring the interventions.
Nontraditional schooling in an alternative school or therapeutic facility may be required in severe cases where the safety of students and staff remains a concern, or when the complexity of the intervention plan warrants it. Research has shown that effective alternative programs can have long-term positive results by reducing expulsions and court referrals (Garrison, 1989). Effective alternative programs support students in meeting high academic and behavioral standards (Morley, 1991; Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center; Quinn et al., 1998; Raywid, 1994). They provide anger and impulse control training, psychological counseling, effective academic and remedial instruction, and vocational training as appropriate. Such programs also make provisions for active family involvement. Moreover, they offer guidance and staff support when the child returns to his or her regular school (Garrison, 1989).
Schoolwide strategies create a foundation that is more responsive to children in general--one that makes interventions for individual children more effective and efficient.
Effective and safe schools are places where there is strong leadership, caring faculty, parent and community involvement--including law enforcement officials--and student participation in the design of programs and policies (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1993; Cornell, 1998). Effective and safe schools also are places where prevention and intervention programs are based upon careful assessment of student problems, where community members help set measurable goals and objectives, where research-based prevention and intervention approaches are used, and where evaluations are conducted regularly to ensure that the programs are meeting stated goals (Gottfredson, 1997; National Association of School Psychologists, 1998). Effective and safe schools are also places where teachers and staff have access to qualified consultants who can help them address behavioral and academic barriers to learning (Dwyer & Bernstein, 1998).
Effective schools ensure that the physical environment of the school is safe, and that schoolwide policies are in place to support responsible behaviors.
Characteristics of a Safe Physical Environment
Prevention starts by making sure the school campus is a safe and caring place. Effective and safe schools communicate a strong sense of security. Experts suggest that school officials can enhance physical safety by:
In addition to targeting areas for increased safety measures, schools also should identify safe areas where staff and children should go in the event of a crisis.
The physical condition of the school building also has an impact on student attitude, behavior, and motivation to achieve. Typically, there tend to be more incidents of fighting and violence in school buildings that are dirty, too cold or too hot, filled with graffiti, in need of repair, or unsanitary.
Characteristics of Schoolwide Policies that Support Responsible Behavior
The opportunities for inappropriate behaviors that precipitate violence are greater in a disorderly and undisciplined school climate. A growing number of schools are discovering that the most effective way to reduce suspensions, expulsions, office referrals, and other similar actions--strategies that do not result in making schools safer--is to emphasize a proactive approach to discipline (Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997).
Effective schools are implementing schoolwide campaigns that establish high expectations and provide support for socially appropriate behavior (Quinn et al., 1998; Wager, 1992-1993). They reinforce positive behavior and highlight sanctions against aggressive behavior. All staff, parents, students, and community members are informed about problem behavior, what they can do to counteract it, and how they can reinforce and reward positive behavior. In turn, the entire school community makes a commitment to behaving responsibly (Colvin, Kameenui, & Sugai, 1993; Colvin, Sugai & Kameenui, 1993; Gottfredson, Gottfredson, & Hybl, 1993; Hawkins et al., 1988).
Effective and safe schools develop and consistently enforce schoolwide rules that are clear, broad-based, and fair (Batsche & Knoff, 1995). Rules and disciplinary procedures are developed collaboratively by representatives of the total educational community (Colvin, Kameenui, & Sugai, 1993; Colvin, Sugai & Kameenui, 1993; Gottfredson et al., 1993; Hawkins et al., 1988). They are communicated clearly to all parties-but most important, they are followed consistently by everyone.
School communities that have undertaken schoolwide approaches do the following things:
Recognizing the warning signs and responding with comprehensive interventions allows us to help children eliminate negative behaviors and replace them with positive ones. Active sharing of information and a quick, effective response by the school community will ensure that the school is safer and the child is less troubled and can learn.
Tips for Parents
Action Steps for Students
Developing a Prevention and Response Plan
Effective schools create a violence prevention and response plan and form a team that can ensure it is implemented. They use approaches and strategies based on research about what works.
A sound violence prevention and response plan reflects the common and the unique needs of educators, students, families, and the greater community. The plan outlines how all individuals in the school community--administrators, teachers, parents, students, bus drivers, support staff--will be prepared to spot the behavioral and emotional signs that indicate a child is troubled, and what they will need to do. The plan also details how school and community resources can be used to create safe environments and to manage responses to acute threats and incidents of violence (Cornell, 1998; Poland, 1994).
An effective written plan includes:
The plan must be consistent with federal, state, and local laws. It also should have the support of families and the local school board.
Recommendations in this guide will prove most meaningful when the entire school community is involved in developing and implementing the plan (Colvin, Sugai, & Kameenui, 1993; Cornell, 1998). In addition, everyone should be provided with relevant training and support on a regular basis (Riley, 1996). Finally, there should be a clearly delineated mechanism for monitoring and assessing violence prevention efforts.
It can be helpful to establish a school-based team to oversee the preparation and implementation of the prevention and response plan. This does not need to be a new team; however, a designated core group should be entrusted with this important responsibility (Poland, 1994; Trump, 1998).
The core team should ensure that every member of the greater school community accepts and adopts the violence prevention and response plan (Poland, 1994; Trump, 1998). This buy-in is essential if all members of the school community are expected to feel comfortable sharing concerns about children who appear troubled. Too often, caring individuals remain silent because they have no way to express their concerns.
Typically, the core team includes the building administrator, general and special education teachers, parent(s), and a pupil support services representative (a school psychologist, social worker, or counselor), school resource officer, and a safe and drug-free schools program coordinator. If no school psychologist or mental health professional is available to the staff, involve someone from an outside mental health agency. Other individuals may be added to the team depending on the task. For example, when undertaking schoolwide prevention planning, the team might be expanded to include students, representatives of community agencies and organizations, the school nurse, school board members, and support staff (secretaries, bus drivers, and custodians). Similarly, crisis response planning can be enhanced with the presence of a central office administrator, security officer, and youth officer or community police team member.
The core team also should coordinate with any school advisory boards already in place. For example, most effective schools have developed an advisory board of parents and community leaders that meets regularly with school administrators. While these advisory groups generally offer advice and support, that role can be expanded to bringing resources related to violence prevention and intervention into the school.
Consider involving a variety of community leaders and parents when building the violence prevention and response team:
The school board should authorize and support the formation of and the tasks undertaken by the violence prevention and response team.
While we cannot prevent all violence from occurring, we can do much to reduce the likelihood of its occurrence. Through thoughtful planning and the establishment of a school violence prevention and response team, we can avert many crises and be prepared when they do happen.
Action Planning Checklist
Responding to Crisis
Violence can happen at any time, anywhere.
Effective and safe schools are well prepared for any potential crisis or violent
In addition to establishing a contingency plan, effective schools provide adequate preparation for their core violence prevention and response team. The team not only plans what to do when violence strikes, but it also ensures that staff and students know how to behave. Students and staff feel secure because there is a well-conceived plan and everyone understands what to do or whom to ask for instructions.
As with other interventions, crisis intervention planning is built on a foundation that is safe and responsive to children. Crisis planning should include:
Effective school communities also have made a point to find out about federal, state, and local resources that are available to help during and after a crisis, and to secure their support and involvement before a crisis occurs (Garfinkel et al., 1988; Poland, 1994; Poland & Pitcher, 1990).
Weapons used in or around schools, bomb threats or explosions, and fights, as well as natural disasters, accidents, and suicides call for immediate, planned action, and long-term, post-crisis intervention. Planning for such contingencies reduces chaos and trauma (Pitcher & Poland, 1992). Thus, the crisis response part of the plan also must include contingency provisions. Such provisions may include:
All provisions and procedures should be monitored and reviewed regularly by the core team.
Just as staff should understand and practice fire drill procedures routinely, they should practice responding to the presence of firearms and other weapons, severe threats of violence, hostage situations, and other acts of terror. School communities can provide staff and students with such practice in the following ways:
Members of the crisis team should understand natural stress reactions. They also should be familiar with how different individuals might respond to death and loss, including developmental considerations, religious beliefs, and cultural values (Lamb & Dunne-Maxim, 1987).
Effective schools ensure a coordinated community response. Professionals both within the school district and within the greater community should be involved to assist individuals who are at risk for severe stress reactions.
Schools that have experienced tragedy have included the following provisions in their response plans:
Crisis Procedure Checklist
Crises involving sudden violence in schools are traumatic in large measure because they are rare and unexpected. Everyone is touched in some way. In the wake of such a crisis, members of the school community are asked--and ask themselves--what could have been done to prevent it.
We know from the research that schools can meet the challenge of reducing violence. The school community can be supported through:
Everyone who cares about children cares about ending violence. It is time to break the silence that too often characterizes even the most well-meaning school communities. Research and expert-based information is available for school communities to use in developing and strengthening programs that can prevent crises.
School safety is everyone's job. Teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and students all must commit to meeting the challenge of getting help for children who show signs of being troubled.
Methodology, Contributors, and Research Support
This guide synthesizes an extensive knowledge base on violence and violence prevention. It includes research from a variety of disciplines, as well as the experience and effective practices of teachers, school psychologists, counselors, social workers, family members, youth workers, and youth.
Much of the research found in this guide was funded by federal offices whose senior staff were involved in supporting and reviewing this document. They include:
The guide was produced by the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice of the American Institutes for Research in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists. The project was led by:
The guide was developed in collaboration with Cynthia Warger of Warger, Eavy and Associates.
Each assertion in the guide is backed by empirical data and/or expert consensus. Research references can be found on the project's Web site at http://cecp.air.org/guide.
The guide was conceptualized by an interdisciplinary expert panel. The writing team, led by Kevin P. Dwyer, included members of the expert panel-George Bear, Norris Haynes, Paul Kingery, Howard Knoff, Peter Sheras, Russell Skiba, Leslie Skinner, and Betty Stockton-in addition to David Osher and Cynthia Warger. The writing team drew upon the other expert panelists for guidance and for resources.
The first draft was reviewed for accuracy by the entire expert panel as well as staff from the federal agencies. The federal reviewers are listed on the project's Web site at http://cecp.air.org/guide.
The second draft was reviewed by family members, teachers, principals, and youth, in addition to leaders of major national associations. The expert panel reviewed the document again at this stage. These reviewers are also listed on the project's Web site at http://cecp.air.org/guide.
Expert Panel Members
U.S. Department of Education
Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice
U.S. Department of Justice
National Association of School Psychologists
National Institute of Mental Health
Center for Mental Health Services
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