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School Youth Violence Prevention: “Top 7 Ways To Prevent Alarming School Violence”

Adolescent youth and young children spend large portions of everyday in school or involved in school related activities. Unfortunately, school related violence is a feature of modern public education. Off school premises the number of school age youths who commit crimes and/or become victims of a crime or assault is also an epidemic.

Reports from the CDC demonstrate that no state in the U.S. has escaped unscathed from the increase in bullying and youth violence.

In fact, the National Initiative To Prevent Youth Violence reports that “the cost of arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating, and treating youth offenders is one of the largest parts of state budgets.”

Youth violence prevention programs and initiatives are essential in ensuring students access to an education free of violence and in reducing the economic costs to society which result from youth violence. Below are the top 7 ways to prevent school and youth violence.
  1. Develop Comprehensive Programs To Prevent Youth Violence: Many times, youth violence is a result of other underlying risky behavior. Adults interested in the prevention of youth violence should consider and address related risky behavior among adolescents which increases the likelihood a individual will commit acts of violence or become the victims of violence.

    For instance, the CDC has reported that schools with sophisticated health education, mental health services, and high parent and community involvement can directly impact risky youth behavior and help to prevent school violence. Additionally, peer mediation and emotional intelligence programs during the elementary school years can build conflict resolution and self-control skills which will be useful in high school and beyond.

    Why?

    It appears teaching better problem solving skills, assisting those with emotional problems and lack of structure in the home as well getting parents involvement at home and school pays off.

  2. Prevent Truancy: One of the primary methods of preventing youth violence is to decrease truancy. Students who cut school are far more likely to commit acts of violence or to become a victim of violence. It is important to note that students who cut classes are also more likely to become victims of adult violence. Students who have any unexcused absences are considered truant, but it is the habitually and chronically truant students who are more likely to engage in school violence.

    According to the National Center for Engagement, students who are in attendance and behavior monitoring programs are statistically less likely to engage in criminal behavior. In the study, students who participated in a 2 year intervention program significantly increased their grades. The students were 66% less likely to have a juvenile record or to be subject to additional school disciplinary proceedings. Keeping kids in school keeps kids accounted for, limit the kinds of violence they will experience and the kinds of crimes they will commit.

  3. Use Technology To Reduce School Violence: Schools across the nation are taking advantage of advances in technology to ensure the safety of students in schools. School districts in Texas have implemented electronic ID cards to monitor students on school premises to minimize student truancy which leads to opportunities for violence. Other schools have used e-alerts and text messages to keep parents and students informed of threats and violence related disruptions to school schedules.

    Still other schools have experimented with Technology Assisted Group Solutions (TAGS). TAGS is a virtual mediation software which connects youth with mediators online to discuss problems with school violence and propose solutions in a group setting. Technology can be used to monitor students and ensure they are at appropriate locations; inform students and parents about school related violence; and, provide a virtual problem solving portal which is accessible to all students via the internet.

  4. Hold Parents Accountable For Youth Violence: The National Initiative To Prevent Youth Violence reports that supportive parents and other principal care givers can reduce the likelihood of violent behavior in youth. Holding parents accountable for youth violence can help reengage parents and community members in efforts to decrease the rates of youth violence. Holding parents accountable can mean addressing problems at home through social services, family parenting trainings, and parent-school committees which go beyond bake sales and fundraisers. Parent support groups for parents with troubled adolescents have been successful in a number of school districts, initiatives which foster positive parental relationships and leadership are vital in family and parental supervision programs. Parental accountability at the school level is a twofold process which should include parental support along with increased parental responsibility for the conduct of school age children.

  5. Initiate Intervention Programs For At-Risk Youth: School educators and community members can make a concerted effort to identify and intervene in the lives of at-risk youth. Early intervention has been shown to significantly decrease the likelihood that students will become offenders. At-risk youth include youth who have already been subject to disciplinary proceedings inside the school or juvenile legal proceedings through the court system.

    The CDC divides youth risk factors into three categories. Risk factors can be individual, related to family, related to peer groups, related to the community in which students reside. Individual factors include a history of previous victimization, high emotional distress, or substance abuse. Family factors such as low parental education, lack of monitoring, and parental substance abuse also place students at-risk for engaging in school violence.

    Students who are disconnected from their peers, are bullied, or associate with already troubled youth in their peer group are also at additional risk. Community risk factors can include high concentrations of poverty, poorly organized neighborhoods, and low levels of community engagement.

    Programs such as the Violence-Free Zone Initiative which pair at risk students with Youth Advisors, have been effective in reducing rates of school violence among students. The program has helped schools create an environment where students are monitored on an individual basis and receive emotional support, tutoring services, attendance monitoring, and regular drug tests. This combination of tactics has proved effective in reducing incidents of school violence among at-risk youth.

  6. Reduce School And Youth Bullying: Bullying activity inflicts violence on victims and can cause victims to harm themselves. It is one of the most prevalent forms of school violence. For the last 5 years, school violence in the form of bullying has seen a sharp increase in school districts across the United States of America. What was once an annoying coming of age event has transformed into a violent, stressful, and concerning phenomenon that has caused severe mental, emotional, and physical distress to youth across America.

    Bullying is school violence. It is far more prevalent in schools than guns or knives. 1 in 5 American children is bullied in a given year. Bullying activity can range from name calling, cyber stalking, to physical assaults. Especially vulnerable students include GLBT students.

    Overall, 20% of all high school students experience bullying and educators need to respond to bullying incidents severely. School policies such as peer mediation, student support groups, and severe can be effective in reducing bullying across the student body. By intervening in and reducing bullying activity which occurs at the level of verbal assaults, educators can prevent the violence from escalating to more serious forms of school violence such as physical assaults.

  7. Create Anonymous School Hotlines: Many acts of violence would be prevented if students felt safe enough to report their fears, attacks, or bullying on an anonymous basis. Often times, adolescent youth will fear developing a reputation as a ‘snitch’ or fear retaliation for coming forward with information of a crime or violence. By ensuring the anonymity of students, school officials can create a climate which allows a free flow of information from the students to the school administration. Access to information about who belongs to what gang, or who has a weapon on school premises, or who intends to fight whom can all be vital pieces of information in the fight to prevent youth violence. Make an impact in your school and community. Express your concerns about safety in your school and community leadership. Start by discussing these 7 solutions with leaders in your school and community. Cite these statistics from the CDC and how some programs have reduced youth and school violence in other places around the United States.
Encourage your school and community to implement at least one of these tactics to curb the rise in school and youth violence. When you see an improvement you’ll want to try another of the 7 best solutions to reduce school and youth violence. You, one person can make a major impact in your community and school. If you don’t take a stand and try, who will?

Questions and Materials to Help You Prepare

References:
  1. CDC, School Violence & Statistics shttp://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/schoolviolence/data_stats.html
  2. Leslie Joan Harris, An Empirical Study of Parental Responsibility Laws: Sending Messages, But What Kind and to Whom?, 2006 UTAH L. REV. 5-34, 5 (2006)
  3. CDC, Understanding School Violence Fact Sheet, 2012 http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/schoolviolence_factsheet-a.pdf
  4. Gary Sweeten, Who Will Graduate? Disruption of High School Education by Arrest and Court Involvement, JUSTICE Q. 462 (2006).
  5. Blueprints for Violence Prevention Programs That Reduce Truancy and/or Improve School Attendance. http://www.schoolengagement.org/TruancypreventionRegistry/Admin/Resources/Resources/BlueprintsforViolencePreventionProgramsThatReduceTruancyandorImproveSchoolAttendance.pdf
  6. Youth Violence Protective Risk Factors http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/riskprotectivefactors.html
  7. National Initiative To Prevent Youth Violence http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/stryve_foundational_resource-a.pdf