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How to Respond to School Violence

Updated on September 10, 2012

Violence at school is a real and present danger for school districts, parents, law enforcement and especially students. Each person in this scenario has a critical role to play in how they will prevent and respond to school violence. For school employees, the emphasis is on learning how to identify potential threats before they occur, provide decisive disciplinary action and learn how to respond in the moment. For parents, teaching kids how to correctly respond to violence before it happens is essential. Parents also play a big role in aiding their kids as they deal with the crisis afterwards. For students, the basic response is to not instigate violence and get out of the way of perpetrators. There are any number of ways to learn how to respond to school violence.


Watch how one school responds to school violence...

Teachers, Administrators and School Employees Response

The incidents of violence in public schools these days has caused school districts to develop policies to help determine just how to respond to school violence. Schools now have crisis planning and response policies in place. Schools are ready to handle just about any type of crisis and respond as per their own specific policy demands. Both teachers and staff are informed and even trained on how to respond before, during and after a violent incident. A good portion of these policies are focused on crisis planning, preparation and prevention or school violence.

Different schools will have different policies so it's best to check with your local school district to find out about the details of their planned response to school violence. Typically, schools have some sort of school crisis response team overseen by a crisis planning team or committee which develops response plans. Some schools allow parents to be a part of these planning teams or committees. Most schools in the U.S. use what id called the Incident Command System (ICS) which helps the school decide on how responses to violent incidents will be handled. Parental involvement is an essential element to provide a consistent, measured and unified response.

A typical response to any act of violence or potential violence will be met with swift and decisive action. The school's response may range anywhere from a warning, suspension, transfer to a special secured school facility or legal action in extreme cases. If parents are fully informed on the specifics of a how a school responds to school violence, they can help make sure their children conform with regulations and respond without violating those regulations.


Here are some types of violence your kids may be experiencing at school...

Parents Response to School Violence

First, I believe that parents need to be involved with the school in planning and implementing all prevention and responses to any type school violence. Evidence has shown that parental involvement is an integral part of the planning process. Next, parents should learn to help their own kids learn how to properly respond to school violence. Children exposed to school violence may respond in various ways including insomnia, unrealistic fears of the future, physical illness (real or imagined) and may also become more easily distracted which impairs the ability to learn at school.


How NOT to respond to school violence...

Sometimes children won't share what's happening at school with their own parents, however, they will share openly with another trusted adult or counselor. Try not to take this personally, it's just the way some kids react to violence. The role of parents should be to provide encouragement and take whatever steps are necessary to find someone with whom they can share their feelings about the violent incident. Parents may also need to attend school with younger children who may still be very afraid of returning to class.

Parents should always be ready to address and talk with their children about any incidence of school violence. This may mean that a parent should seek some professional assistance to be more prepared to meet the needs of a child exposed to school violence. Consider setting an appointment with a counselor. A parent's emotional security and stability is essential in order to be available to their children.


Some good resources for learning how to respond to violence in schools...

Student Response Does Not Include Retaliation

Students should be aware of the guidelines set out by each individual school and try to adhere to those guidelines. Each school is likely to have a different response to school violence so check with your school first. Typically, students are directed to remain as calm as possible and move to a place where they are safe from the threat of violence. Schools do not typically endorse responding to violence with violence. For example, if a student is hit or assaulted and responds by hitting or assaulting the instigating student, both students will likely face the same disciplinary action.

Almost all schools have a zero-tolerance policy which requires both parties be disciplined, typically suspension or a semester attending classes at a special, lock-down facility.

The typical school-prescribed response for students is to get away from the threat to a safe place and notify and adult teacher, staff member or school security personnel (also known as a School Resource Officer or SRO). Not much of a policy, but from the school's standpoint, it makes sense to prevent any more violence which may occur as a result of the initial violent act. As a parent, you need to know that if a parent advises retaliation as a response to violence for their child, that child will likely face the same penalty as the aggressor.



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