1. A Guide to Safe Schools
2. Characteristics of a
School That Is Safe and Responsive to All Children
3. Early Warning Signs
4. Intervention: Getting
Help for Troubled Children
5. Developing a
Prevention and Response Plan
6. Responding to Crisis
Contributors, and Research Support
"Violence is a major concern to parents, students, teachers,
and the administration of any school. We have found that our best plan starts with
prevention and awareness. At our middle school, the school psychologist, in conjunction
with the assistant principal, has developed an anti-intimidation and threat plan. Our
school statistics reflect a dramatic decline in violence from the 1996-97 to the 1997-98
school year. We treat each and every student with respect. We are finding that they in
turn are demonstrating a more respectful attitude."
G. Norma Villar Baker, Principal, Midvale, UT
Section 1: 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 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. 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.
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
About This Guide
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
What to look for the early warning signs that
relate to violence and other troubling behaviors.
What to do the action steps that school
communities can take to prevent violence and other troubling behaviors, to intervene and
get help for troubled children, and to respond to school violence when it occurs.
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
Creating a safe school requires having in place many preventive measures for children's
mental and emotional problems 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.
Using the Guide To Develop a Plan of Action
All staff, students, parents, and members of the community must be part of creating a
safe school environment:
Everyone has a personal responsibility for reducing the risk of
violence. We must take steps to maintain order, demonstrate mutual respect and caring for
one another, and ensure that children who are troubled get the help they need.
Everyone should have an understanding of the early warning
signs that help identify students who may be headed for trouble.
Everyone should be prepared to respond appropriately in a
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
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.