More counselors, better prevention training for teachers, and more parent involvement in schools were also among the recommendations made by an Idaho safe schools task force chaired by Boise State University Professor Bob Barr. The Idaho task force released its own report on school safety April 26, in which it also endorsed smaller schools and character education.
Here are the 10 recommendations of the Idaho task force:
• Increase parent education and information. Referring to highly publicized school shooting cases across the country in recent years, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said, “I don’t think any of us believe that those students one day had a bad day and said, ‘Let’s go do something.’ It goes back into the early years.” Parenting classes in Coeur d’Alene were listed as an exemplary program that other districts could copy.
• Develop a plan for parent involvement in every school district. Research shows that children whose parents are involved in their education are more successful in school, regardless of the parents’ income, education level, or other factors, the task force said.
• Provide districts with trained professionals and technical assistance for early indentification of children prone to violence and bullying and intervene to help change the children’s behavior.
• Add more school counselors and programs that bring secondary school students into positive relationships with caring adults. Counselors in Idaho each are responsible for 400 or more students now, the task force said.
• Require teachers, as part of certification, to demonstrate knowledge of early warning signs, classroom management techniques, and other factors related to violence-prone youths.
• Increase emphasis on character education in schools, including development of a “community developmental assets” survey in each district.
• Provide continuing supervised education for expelled students.
• Promote smaller schools or efforts to create programs within larger schools to ensure that students don’t feel overlooked or alienated. Schools with more than 1,000 students are more prone to cliques, alienation, and violence, according to the report, which recommends that Idaho move toward smaller schools or creating school-within-a-school communities. State funding would be sought to help.
• Promote all these efforts statewide, including the Governor’s Safe School Help Line (1-800-4-1-VOICE, extension 359), which allows students to report potential school safety problems anonymously. Fund the safe schools technical support center for three years, the task force recommended.
• Review state laws on threats of violence and toughen them if necessary. Make students across the state aware that schools will take such threats seriously and will prosecute them.