Tips for parents and educators on school violence prevention

Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 3:55 PM CST
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(KFVS) - A main priority of schools to prevent school violence and work to make schools very safe places.

Children, staff and parents all have an important role in promoting school safety. Following procedures and reporting, concerns are just a few of the ways this is achieved, while still balancing building security with a healthy, nurturing, school environment.

The goal is to reassure students that while there is a possibility of school violence occurring, the chance of a school experiencing a high-profile violent act is extremely low.

Talking with children and validating their feelings is an important first step. Let their questions guide what and how much information to provide. Emphasize the positive things that children, families and schools can do to safe.

It is important to be patient with children. They are not always ready to talk about their feelings. Watch them for clues that they might want to talk, such as hovering around while you are doing dishes or yard work or visiting your classroom during passing periods or after school.

Some children prefer writing, playing music or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities, like drawing, picture books or imaginative play to help them identify and express their feelings.

Being aware of the signs that a child might be in distress is important too. Changes in behavior, anxiety, sleep problems, acting out and problems at school or with academic work can be good indicators of this.

Also be conscious of the media exposure and what is said about the event in front of the student. Limiting television (be aware if the television is on in common areas), this can expose students to frightening images which only increase anxiety.

Here are some suggested general key points when talking to children:

  • style='margin: 0px 0px 20px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background: rgb(250, 250, 250); box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;'>Schools are safe places. Our school staff works with local police and fire departments, emergency responders, and hospitals to keep you safe.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Our school is safe because….
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel concerned, uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Know the difference between reporting and tattling, or gossiping. You can provide important information either directly or anonymously, that can help prevent harm by telling adults what they need to know.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it will affect you or our school.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Providing children with opportunities to do things they enjoy, sticking to a normal routine, and being with friends and family can help students feel better and keep them from worrying about the event.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence. Thus, it is important that children be kept away from guns and other weapons. It is equally important that children be encouraged to tell an adult if they know someone has a gun.
  • style="padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Students can be part of a positive solution to school violence. They can do this by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

Keep explanations appropriate for each child's development.

  • style='margin: 0px 0px 20px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background: rgb(250, 250, 250); box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;'>Early elementary school students need brief, simple information that is balanced with reassurances. Make sure they know that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety that remind children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills being practiced so they are prepared if something happens.
  • style="margin:0px 0px 10px;padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Upper elementary and early middle school students will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. These students may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools and provide concrete examples.
  • style="padding:0px;border:0px;outline:0px;vertical-align:baseline;background:transparent;box-sizing:border-box;">Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make the school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

Parents: Open communication between home and school is critical to the safety and well-being of our students and your children. Let us know if you have a concern or question about school policies, your child's safety, or the safety of their friends. Know if your child's friends have access to guns and keep any guns in your house locked up and away from children of all ages. Focus on building resiliency and coping skills to manage disappointments and help your child be comfortable seeking help from an adult they trust.

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