Teaching About Violence in Schools

Introduction

School violence is “youth violence that occurs on school property” and “includes various behaviors. Some violent acts—such as bullying, pushing, and shoving—can cause more emotional harm than physical harm. Other forms of violence, such as gang violence and assault (with or without weapons), can lead to serious injury or even death” (CDC). Unfortunately, violence in schools has been increasing over the past several years, and as such, it is important for students to learn (in a developmentally appropriate way) about school violence and understand how to cope with worries about this type of violence. 

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching about violence in schools and how it can be prevented. Discussing school violence and teaching coping skills will help students feel more comfortable and safe in the school setting and learn how they can get involved in preventing school violence.

Lesson Plans

  1. Resources for Talking and Teaching About School Violence: The International Literacy Association provides a collection of resources to help educators start a dialogue with students about violence in schools. Each of the resources will also prepare educators to give students the support and guidance they need to process the event and confront their questions and feelings. Educators will find resources from the American School Counselor Association, the National Education Association, The New York Times, and more organizations!
  2. Resources for Responding to Violence and Tragedy: Scholastic editors have consulted with educators and experts nationwide to put together a collection of resources designed to help educators respond to violence and tragedy. Resources include expert advice for teachers, articles for students, social-emotional learning resources, etc. Not only do these resources include tips for talking to kids about tragedy and information about how kids cope with trauma, but some also provide emotional support for teachers!
  3. 15 Tips for Talking with Children About School Violence: Colorín Colorado offers fifteen tips for talking with children about school violence. This guide walks educators through how to talk with children about tragedy in the news and other important steps in the process. A number of resources that the National Association of School Psychologists recommends are also provided, including news websites for kids, resources to help educators talk about the Connecticut school shooting with students, and multilingual resources educators can use to discuss other tough topics.

Articles

  1. Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers: The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has compiled a list of tips for parents and educators for talking to children about violence. These tips include reassuring children that they are safe, making time to talk, keeping your explanations developmentally appropriate, reviewing safety procedures, observing children’s emotional state, and more. This resource will help educators who are unsure about how to broach this sensitive topic with their students learn more about how they should best have these conversations in their classrooms!
  2. Talking With Kids About School Violence and Trauma: Scholastic provides a short piece on talking with kids about school violence and trauma. This resource includes a Q&A with Dr. Jamie Howard, a trauma specialist with the Child Mind Institute, tips for talking with kids, and suggestions for emotional support for teachers. Educators will learn expert information about how kids process trauma and how to facilitate conversations about traumatic events in a developmentally appropriate way!
  3. How To Discuss Violence in Schools With Children: Public School Review has published a brief article, which includes a few videos, on how to discuss violence in schools with children. This article will provide eight ways for educators to guide their conversations with children when discussing high-profile acts of violence in schools. Talking with students about school violence can be difficult, especially with social media at our fingertips, but this article will guide educators through the conversation, recommending that educators reassure children that they are safe, validating their feelings, listening to their questions, letting them understand how they can help, and more.
  4. How to Talk to Children About School Violence: CBS News offers a brief article on how to talk to children about school violence. Psychologist and CBS News contributor Lisa Damour recommends that kids under age 6 be shielded from violent or upsetting news coverage because they are too young to understand, kids ages 7 to 11 be asked if they’ve heard about the incident and if they have questions, and kids age 12 and over be encouraged to keep the conversation going. Though this article was written with parents who are looking for the best way to talk with their children about school violence in mind, the information offered is just as useful for educators!

Informational Sites

  1. Understanding School Violence: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a fact sheet on understanding school violence. This fact sheet, though it is from 2016, it still somewhat relevant in the conversation on school violence. Since 2016, however, it is likely that school violence is on the up. The sheet covers why school violence is a public health problem, why school violence affects health, who is at risk for school violence, how we can prevent school violence, and more.
  2. Violence Prevention – School Violence: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some more information on school violence, specifically school violence prevention. Topics on this page include what school violence is, how big the problem of school violence is, and how we can prevent violence in schools. At the bottom of this page is a link to a page which contains youth violence resources, including articles, publications, data resources, and prevention resources for school violence.
  3. 11 Facts About School Violence: DoSomething.org provides students with eleven facts about school violence. The sources for the facts are at the bottom of the page, so students and educators alike can learn more about the statistics on violence in schools. From this page, students who are interested can also click the link provided and learn how to get involved and  take action against school violence!
  4. Causes of School Violence: The Constitutional Rights Foundation provides information on the causes of school violence. There are explanations on how access to weapons, cyber abuse, environmental impact (school environments, gangs at schools, school size, and middle schools), community environments, family environments all have an influence on the prevalence of school violence.
  5. Violence in Schools Is a National Crisis: Psychology Today has published a brief informational article about how violence in schools is a national crisis. The article explains how aggression is often triggered by common directives and disciplinary practices and discusses how school violence can be reduced by more effective action, research, training, and policy.

Conclusion

Teaching about school violence may be a daunting task, but it is an extremely important one. With news about school violence across the country at their fingertips, students are likely to have concerns about their safety at school. Therefore, as educators, it is important to teach them about why school violence occurs, what students and schools can do to prevent school violence, and the best ways for students to cope with school violence. The lesson plans, articles, and informational sites above will help educators to bring the topic of school violence to their classrooms!

Additional Resources

  1. Violence – What Schools Can Do: Harvard Graduate School of Education has published an article on what schools can do about violence. The author, Jill Anderson, recommends building relationships and becoming a resource, building school strategies against violence, and building supports to keep schools motivated.
  2. Increasing Violence – A Concern for Schools: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) offers the first chapter of Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution which provides information on violence in schools, violence in society, the changing patterns of family and community life, the impact of redefining violence as normal, the role of easy access to guns and drugs in increased violence, the responsibility of schools, and how to make schools safe learning environments.
  3. Should You Worry About School Violence?: TeensHealth offers a short article on whether teens should worry about school violence, explaining why school violence happens and what they can do to prevent school violence and cope with news of school violence.
  4. U.S. School Violence Fast Facts: CNN provides U.S. school violence fast facts, which includes a timeline of school violence in the U.S. from 1927 to January of 2020.
  5. Talking To Kids About School Safety: Mental Health America (MHA) offers several suggestions to guide educators and parents through discussions about school violence and a list of behaviors educators should look for that are signs that a child may need help.

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