These days, we are all focused on how to prevent school violence. First, it’s important to note that there are multiple types of school violence. This post focuses on preventing targeted school violence.
The motivation for a targeted school attack is related to many factors and often makes no sense to observers. With this type of violence, we are looking at a multitude of factors including marginalization from peer groups (or perception of marginalization), societal scripts for violence, fascination and experience with violence and weaponry, possible personality disorders and/or mental illness, recent or long-held grievances coupled with a lack of alternatives to solve them, a default to coping through violence, recent humiliation, and a number of other aspects.
Individuals responsible for school violence have been studied extensively. Most share a number of the characteristics noted above. Any approach to prevention and intervention must include a process for identifying troubled and troubling individuals and sharing information with others who have knowledge of the person.
Taking away the weapons helps, but it is not a cure. Mental health treatment can help avert a crisis, but mental illness is not the sole cause of violence and the majority of mentally ill persons are not violent. Sometimes individuals with a grievance are determined to exact revenge and will intentionally resist therapeutic efforts.
Many variables determine whether a rigid and hateful view of something in the world will be turned into action. Easy access to weapons, lack of mental health treatment options for many, violent video games, television and other media, loss of funding for prevention programs and overly strained social service systems all contribute to the problem.
You can be a part of the solution by applying these simple strategies:
- Build relationships with staff and students
- Identify troubled individuals and provide appropriate resources and monitoring for those who need them
- Teach your students and staff to report concerns about someone’s words or behavior
- Connect with students one by one and let them know that you take their concerns seriously and will follow up with appropriate action
Once they trust you to do that, word will spread and the student network will open up to you. This is vital. In 80% of prior school attacks someone knew about the plan before the attack. Be the person students want to tell, and you’ll be able to keep your school much safer.