Resources to Help Schools and Districts Prevent Student Violence, Assaults, and Aggression
I'm writing to you from Hobbs, New Mexico--where I will be training administrators and Student Assistance Teams from this region on RtI and data-based problem solving over next few days. This follows a visit all last week where I helped an New York City elementary school to enhance its PBIS implementation, and a private school for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students outside of Newark to improve their strategic behavioral intervention capacity.
Today's Topic: School Assaults and Violence
In a January 13, 2014 Education Week article, reporting on a new study conducted at Brown University, researchers investigated school injuries, between 2001 to 2008, by analyzing data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
The reported concluded that 90,000 students suffered "intentional" injuries at school in each of the years studied that were bad enough to warrant trips to the emergency room. In fact, of the 7.4 million student injuries during the study period, fully 736,014 were intentional. Among the documented injuries, fractures accounted for 12%, brain injuries for 10%, and sprains and strains for another 7%.
The vast majority of the injuries-- 96% --were the result of an assault. And a full 10% of the assaults involved multiple perpetrators.
Beyond the physical, social, and emotional damage to these students, these data suggest that our emphasis--over the past five or more years--on teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, and physical aggression has not resulted in dramatic changes. While "Rachel's Challenge" and other "character-oriented" programs may increase students' awareness and commitment to solving these problems, the simple truth is that we need to implement behavioral change approaches that involve the following five elements:
- Staff, Student, and Parent Relationships that establish Positive School and Classroom Climates
- Explicit Classroom and Common School Area Expectations supported by Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skill/Self-Management Instruction (that are embedded in preschool through high school "Health, Mental Health, and Wellness" activities)
- School-wide and Classroom Behavioral Accountability systems that include Motivational Approaches reinforcing "Good Choice" behavior
- Consistency--in the classroom, across classrooms, and across staff, time, settings, and situations
- Applications of the above across all Settings in the school, and relative to the Peer Group interactions (specifically targeting teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, and physical aggression)
A Model District Teasing/Bullying/Harassment Policy
Based on a thorough review of state laws or educational regulations across the country, and school board policies from over 20 model school districts, this document provides a template for school districts who want to create, update, or review their policies in the areas of teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, and physical aggression or fighting.
Including cyber- or electronic-bullying and cyberstalking, this document has the following sections: Introduction, Definitions, Training and Notification of this Policy and its Procedures, Reporting and Investigation Responsibilities and Procedures (Staff and Students), Disciplinary Actions and Due Process (Students, Staff, and Visitors), False Accusations, and a Bibliography.
A School Safety Audit Protocol
One way to ensure that common school areas (e.g., hallways, bathrooms, playgrounds) and schools in general are safe and secure is to conduct periodic "School Safety Audits." These audits are complemented by a written Crisis Management/Emergency Operations Plan and Handbook that summarizes a school's comprehensive crisis preparation, intervention, and response system.
This brief Technical Assistance Paper summarizes the most up-to-date information in these two areas so that schools can analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and close any critical gaps. Relative to the recommended development of an "Emergency Operations Handbook," three types of crises are identified that schools need to plan for: Crises with Advanced Notice, with Minimal Notice, and with No Notice.
The Scale of Effective School Discipline and Safety
The Scale of Effective School Discipline and Safety consists of 58 items and five factors (Teachers' Effective Classroom Management Skills, Students' Positive Behavioral Interactions and Respect, Holding Students Accountable for their Behavior: Administration and Staff, Teachers' Contribution to a Positive School Climate, and School Safety and Security: Staff, Students, and School Grounds) that staff rated along a five-point scale from 1- Strongly Agree to 5- Strongly Disagree.
The scale was designed to evaluate school staff attitudes and beliefs regarding the degree to which positive and effective positive school discipline and safety processes exist in their school. A link to the scale is below, as well as another link to a spreadsheet that will facilitate the scoring process.
Please feel free to share these and other materials that you find on the Project ACHIEVE website with your colleagues, education and community leaders, and parents across your district or state.
When students do not feel or are not safe in school, it is difficult for them to fully focus on your educational programs and their academic success. We cannot sweep our school violence or discipline problems "under the rug." We need to expose them, analyze them, and fix them--at the community, system, school, staff, and student levels. I hope some of these resources will help you to continue this important journey.