Preventing violence before it starts involves giving members of the school community the tools and accountability to ensure a safe environment for all

Focusing on upstream prevention can stem school violence

Preventing violence before it starts involves giving members of the school community the tools and accountability to ensure a safe environment for all

While instances of school violence are on the rise, there is strong evidence to suggest that upstream violence prevention is what’s needed to curb this trend. Since 1999 there have been over 300 violent tragedies that have played out from college campuses to elementary schools, and 320K students have been exposed to gun violence

According to a 2019 CDC study involving 13,667 students, 1 in 5 report of being bullied on school property within the last year and roughly 8 percent of high school students surveyed indicated they had been in a physical fight on school property at least one or more times within the last year.  

These events have cast a spotlight on school safety and have put teachers, students and administrators squarely at the center of taking steps to create a positive school environment. It is widely known that a safe and supportive learning environment has a profound, positive impact on the academic success, mental health, and social well-being of students.

Why an Increase in Violence?

The 21st century has seen a 19 percent increase in violent events on school property. Experts attribute this increase to distinct factors including severe and long-term bullying experienced by the perpetrator, non-compliance and withdrawal side effects of psychiatric medications, social media, exposure to violent content, access to weapons, and a lack of mental health resources.

Upstream Violence Prevention

One of the most effective approaches to stemming the school violence crisis is a scalable community approach using upstream violence prevention. This approach refers to preventing violence before it starts by giving members of the school community the tools and accountability to ensure a safe environment for all.

Tips and Strategies for Upstream Prevention

  • Creating a safe, inclusive school community
  • Violence and bullying prevention training for students, staff, and parents/caregivers
  • Zero tolerance bullying policy
  • Readily available mental health service for student referrals  
  • Threat assessment by school or district

Training as part of Prevention

One way that schools and districts are setting a stable foundation for violence prevention is through educator and student training. From game-like training simulations to videos and digital content delivered via on demand modules, schools are trying to get ahead of the behaviors and attitudes that lead to incidences and violent situations on school grounds.

By giving students the tools to understand their emotions, teaching growth through resiliency and understanding when to seek out help for themselves or a peer in distress, districts are finding powerful, lasting support from online training that can be integrated into a school curriculum.

How to Integrate a Training Curriculum

To realize the greatest benefit from both educator and student training, it’s recommended that schools and districts create a roll out plan, train facilitators and measure outcomes.

Create a roll out plan: To ensure the training is integrated into the curriculum and that students have adequate time to complete it, each school/district should appoint a team that will manage the roll out the training program.

Train the facilitator: If the training will be offered as part of the curriculum it’s important that each facilitator is completely trained on the content, how to handle student questions and understands how to make referrals to support for students in distress. Facilitator training as well as resource guides for reference are essential.

Establish benchmarks & measure: To demonstrate the effectiveness of the training, schools or districts should establish how they will measure outcomes. This could be measured by the number of students and educators trained over a school year or the decrease/ increase in the number of violent incidences on school grounds.

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