Addressing School Violence

School should be a place where both students and teachers feel safe. Your school likely has many safety policies in place already, from rules against running in the hallway to practices for addressing food allergies. In addition to these, it’s important to plan for how to address school violence. There are several steps you can take to help provide a safe learning environment for both your students and staff. 

Identify and Inspect High-Risk Areas 

School violence can frequently happen in these areas:

  • Parking lots and adjacent sites off school grounds
  • Points of entry
  • Stairs and stairwells
  • Restrooms
  • Cafeterias 

Once you identify these areas, inspect them and the rest of your facility to help ensure that you have necessary safety elements in place, such as: 

  • Clear signage
  • Clear sight lines for adequate visual surveillance
  • Minimum number of points of entry into a building
  • Appropriate supervision
  • Adequate entry and visitor control process
  • Adequate lighting
  • Enclosed areas under stairwells (both internal and external stairways) 

Engage Students and the Community in Your Safety Efforts

Even with a safety plan and proper training, a school may not always have the information needed to properly address a violent incident before it occurs. Students, parents, or community members may have knowledge of potential or alleged threats and should be encouraged to share information with school authorities or law enforcement. 

To encourage communication between students, parents, the community, and your school, it is important to:

  • Create a climate in which students feel comfortable sharing information about a potentially threatening situation.
  • Incorporate a mechanism into school policy to report potential or alleged threats.
  • Provide ongoing training for school staff on how to properly respond to information about an alleged or potential threat.

Develop a School Emergency Management Crisis Plan

Your staff plays a critical role in protecting students. Be sure to have detailed emergency crisis management plans for your building as well as your district. Share these plans with school personnel to ensure that they know how to respond to emergency situations. 

Some common elements in a school emergency management crisis plan include: 

  • Plans to respond to specific emergencies
  • Prevention and intervention strategies
  • Procedures to coordinate use of district resources
  • Early detection of potentially violent behaviors
  • Communication protocols
  • Involvement of law enforcement and other outside agencies during a violent event 

Review and practice the plans with staff and students on a regular basis.

Keeping Your School Safe

Students who commit violent acts at school may have previously exhibited warning signs or behaviors prior to committing a violent act. It’s crucial to train your school staff on how to recognize these early warning signs and respond in a timely manner. There are a number of resources, such as those from Dr. Dewey Cornell[1] and the FBI[2], that can help you properly assess and report a threat or concern. Consult with your department of education, local authorities, and legal counsel to determine what is appropriate and recommended for your school and your jurisdiction.

By identifying and addressing the risks at your school and working with the full school community, you can help provide a safer learning environment for students and teachers alike. 

[1] Cornell, Dewey G. (2010). The Virginia Model for Student Threat Assessment. Confronting Violence in Our Schools: Planning, Response, and Recovery – A PERI Symposium. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/violence/virginia-model.pdf

[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation (1999).The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/school-shooter

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.