School: A Safe Haven…No More
For students, school is a place where their academic and social lives come together to mold and to shape them into hopeful, successful, professional human beings who are eager to, one day, find their niche in the real world. However, with the recent issue of gun violence on school campuses across the country lingering in their minds, many students might find it difficult to focus on their studies and social lives when they have fears about their school being the next target for gun violence. Since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, one-third of U.S. secondary students believe they have classmates or peers in their schools that are capable of performing similar acts of violence, according to a Gallup poll (Borum, Cornell, Modzeleski, & Jimerson, 2010). Although we may never understand why someone would want to harm innocent people in a senseless act of violence, we can, however, take precautions to prepare our students, parents, teachers, and administrators for possible future attacks.
Violence Prevention Initiative
The growing issue of gun violence on school campuses is a concern for students, parents, and stakeholders at all educational levels; primary, secondary, and higher educational settings alike are becoming breeding grounds for people’s rage and unstable mental/emotional health outbursts. Combatting gun violence in schools has to begin with stricter policies regarding school safety in primary and secondary schools and increased measures to improve campus safety policies on higher education campuses. Violence prevention planning might not eradicate the increasing number of incidents of gun violence on school campuses, but planning for such incidents could help school officials, parents, and students better prepare for future incidents (USDHHS, 2012). The violence prevention initiative on college campuses, for instance, places campus personnel, faculty, and campus officers at the forefront of any major outbreak of violence on campus. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has shown its support of college campus personnel by suggesting an increase of mental health providers on all campuses. Faculty, especially those in the Department of English, have been asked to closely monitor student classwork (mainly their compositions) for signs of distress, violence, or disturbing images and wording. Recognizing a potentially mentally or emotionally distressed individual could be the first step in preventing some major catastrophe executed at the hands of a mentally or emotionally sick individual (Meloy, Hoffman, & Jones, 2012). Violence prevention initiatives could address and reduce the increased acts of gun violence on school campuses across the U.S.
Other Violence Prevention Strategies for School Campuses
- Institutionalization of a code of conduct [that] demonstrates a commitment to violence prevention and helps staff and students feel safe. The code should clearly explain school rules and punishments for infractions.
- A reform of the "zero tolerance for guns" provision.
- [Instituting a] zero tolerance provisions for other types of offenses, such as assaulting a teacher, so that violent students can be removed from regular classrooms. Because some disruptive students might welcome expulsion, [policies could include] that the school response to certain specified acts will be legal prosecution.
- Policies can be created at three levels: district, school, and classroom. Since there are different concerns at each one, it is reasonable for students to be governed by several complementary policies.
- Collaborative development by administrators, teachers, parents, and even students, with a review for legal compliance, [could] help [to] ensure that a policy will be respected and enforced.
- Periodically reviewing a policy for appropriateness, effectiveness, and completeness maintains its usefulness over time. Copies are given to administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Students may also have the rules explained to them in assembly or a classroom to be sure they understand the purpose of the rules, the parameters of acceptable behavior, and the consequences of infractions (Schwartz, 1996).
With the rise of gun violence on school campuses across the nation, stakeholders in education, law enforcement, politics, and mental health agencies are scrambling to find solutions to combatting this growing problem before it becomes an epidemic of severe magnitude. School environments should be safe havens for learning and social maturation of all students. Building reciprocal relationships among students, teachers, families, and communities, both personal and professional, should be the foundation of any school campus. However, the onslaught of gun violence that has invaded our schools over the past 2 decades has diminished the level of safety that students, parents, and school officials feel when they step foot on campus. Therefore, we have to work together, within our communities and school districts, to try to minimize the fear and uncertainty that students have expressed about attending their schools or colleges since the rise of gun violence has erupted on campuses across the U.S. Overhauling schools’ violence prevention plans could help us to return our schools to the safe havens they should be for our students.
Borum, R., Cornell, D., Modzeleski, W., & Jimerson, S. (2012). What can be done about school shootings? A review of the evidence. Education Researcher. 39(1), 27.
Meloy, J. R., Hoffman, G. A., & Jones, D. (2012). The role of warning behaviors in threat assessment: An exploration and suggested typology. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 30, 256-279.
Schwartz, W. (1996). An overview of strategies to reduce school violence. ERIC/CUE Digest No. 115. Retrieved January 26, 2012. http:// http://www.ericdigests.org/1998- 1/overview.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Healthy People 2020. Retrieved January 26, 2012 http://www.healthypeople.gov./2020/topicobjectives2020/overview.aspx?top...