When done right, reporting and monitoring potential school safety issues lead to a safe resolution. Of course, when good behavior is reported, it should also lead to celebration! Here are some things to remember as you navigate resolution and celebration in your schools.
Learning from Near Misses
A report from the Police Foundation, Learning Lessons from Averted Acts of Violence in Schools, explores lessons learned. Their work is informed by the idea of a ‘near miss.’ For every incident that occurs, averted incidents can provide valuable insight. The foundation recognizes that many stakeholders have played a part in averting school safety issues, listing students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, school resource officers, and others in the community.
One key finding is that schools and law enforcement must have a strong, reestablished relationship with open lines of communication long before an incident occurs. In addition, students who hear any threat of violence or suspect that a school safety incident could occur need to report it immediately. Primarily peers discover potential plots or concerns. They need a good way to report them.
The Secret Service report on averting targeted school violence echoes the same: in many cases, a plotter’s friends, classmates, and peers were aware of the potential for violence. Some warned friends not to go to school.
Students, parents, and all stakeholders need to know who is at risk and how to intervene. A robust reporting system brings potential concerns to staff and agencies like law enforcement. Previous data ensures that the situation is triaged and managed appropriately, so attacks never come to light and school safety problems can be resolved.
What Happens After Violence is Averted?
The Secret Service report notes a mixture of judicial interventions. Over half of their studied plotters received either an adult or juvenile charge. Some had their cases dropped or dismissed. While some received formal confinement, many received probation or placement into a treatment facility. Ideally, people can be reformed, especially if intervention is early.
Many moved on to continue school and enroll in higher education, while others experienced negative life events. Adverse childhood events had also impacted many.
Prevention as Protection
As the Secret Service report notes, prevention is the best form of protection. When looking at resolved incidents of school violence, the research shows that there are typically many points for intervention long before a student is plotting something malicious.
Most attackers had experienced known stressors within the last five years, had a history of mental health systems, or showed concerning behaviors. This would be known and acted upon if schools and districts used monitoring systems.
National Institute of Justice research says that one way to get other students to report concerns is to focus on the mental health needs of their peers. Students will report without worry about feeling like they are snitching when they recognize that they are helping their peers and helping their schools be safe.
School climate is another key consideration. Do students feel like they can go to staff with their mental health concerns? Will the district act if they are being bullied or need outside resources? Again, a reporting tool is valuable here, collecting data on students requiring help while revealing school- or district-wide concerns.
Celebrating School and District Successes
Encouraging achievements and good behavior go beyond sporadic ‘good jobs’ told to staff and students. By celebrating as many great things about your schools as possible, you show that the school — and, by extension, the people in it — matter.
Meaningful feedback does more than make people feel good. As Curious Neuron reports, it helps students become more self-regulated, offering some protection against other adversities.
Are you looking for celebration ideas? Here are a few from Education World. The broad strokes: spotlight students with celebrations and recognitions, not just at the end of the year but throughout the entire academic calendar.
These do not have to be big, flashy ceremonies but can be as simple as certificates for excellent classroom behavior or a letter home when a student shows great qualities. A simple Student of the Week program goes a long way in encouraging an environment that is safe and healthy for everyone. Others use monthly or quarterly recognitions, spreading the workout while ensuring every student has a chance to shine.
GroupLink’s platforms, including GroupLink for SafestSchools, GroupLink Workflow Process & Incident Tracking, and GroupLink everything HelpDesk, will help your team accomplish this. Our programs increase student safety and operational efficiency, collaboration, and accountability, while significantly reducing liability and risk associated with safety issues.
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