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Risk Management

6 Violence Prevention Tips to Build a Safer School District

Everyone, from staff to students and parents, plays a role in maintaining a positive culture for learning and development in schools. Achieving that goal starts with implementing these essential strategies into a district’s risk management program.

May 20, 2024

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, roughly 857,500 violent incidents and 479,500 nonviolent incidents were recorded by public schools in 2021-2022. For school districts, this violence can feel pervasive and increasingly complex to control as more pathways to incidents become available, whether that be through social media, private messaging, or anonymous blogs.

“Times have changed, and so should a district’s student interaction procedures to fit current challenges,” said Kevin O’Sadnick, Senior Risk Services Manager at Safety National. “School staff may need additional training or insight to understand their level of involvement with combative students. Sharing case studies of previous incidents can also build awareness into a school’s culture.”

Here, we outline six methods to help guide district risk managers in mitigating violent incidents in their schools.

1. Promote a positive school culture and environment where everyone feels safe, supported, and understood.

    • Social-emotional learning, which develops self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, decision-making, and relationship skills, can help build and strengthen interactions within a school. This should be prevalent everywhere, including through the parent-teacher association (PTA), clubs, classrooms, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. Building a strong support structure may also include community partnerships with healthcare providers, youth groups, and social groups.

2. Prioritize the health and well-being of teachers and other school staff.

    • Staff who are exhausted and feel chronically undervalued will not be able to fully participate in creating a safe and welcoming school environment. Keep the lines of communication open and nurture an environment of curiosity that is actively learning from staff feedback.

3. Understand behavioral warning signs in addition to when and how to intervene based on school procedures and training.

    • Concerning behaviors should be defined for all staff members, including those that should trigger an immediate intervention (e.g., threats, violent acts or weapons on campus) and other lower-level concerning behaviors (e.g., depressed mood, interest in violent topics or conflicts between classmates).

4. Outline procedures and training for de-escalation.

    • Districts should actively train their educators on de-escalation methods through live training. In-person training, when used in conjunction with online training, can be more effective. Policies should address methods for handling both verbal and conflict de-escalation incidents.

5. Require cyber awareness and training for both staff and students.

    • Many behavioral warning signs start online, whether it be bullying, psychological violence, sexual violence, or large-scale threats. Staff and students should be trained to recognize what is acceptable and what is an immediate red flag. Administrators should block certain websites and monitor them where allowed.

6. Establish an anonymous reporting system for staff, students, and parents.

    • This should include reporting for all tips, including threats of self-harm, violence to others, bullying, harassment, and abuse. The system should be promoted for both on- and off-premise use and set up so that all tips receive action. Ensure that it provides anonymity to those reporting concerns and is monitored by personnel who will follow up on all reports.