A Guide to Safe Schools A Guide to Safe

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A Guide to Safe Schools
                 Organizations Supporting This Guide

American Association of                      Federation of Families for                 National Education
 School Administrators                         Children’s Mental Health                   Association
American Counseling                          National Association of                    National Mental Health
 Association                                   Elementary School                          Association
                                               Principals                               National Middle Schools
American Federation of                                                                    Association
 Teachers                                    National Association of
                                               School Psychologists                     National PTA
American School Counselors
 Association                                                                            National School Boards
                                             National Association of                      Association
                                               Secondary School
Council of Administrators of                   Principals                               National School Public
  Special Education                                                                       Relations Association
                                             National Association of
Council for Exceptional                                                                 Police Executive Research
                                               State Boards of Education
  Children                                                                                Forum

The full text of this public domain publi-   Email: David_Summers@ed.gov                The development of this guide was sup-
cation is available at the Department’s      Telephone: (202)205-9043                   ported by the Office of Special Education
home page at http://www.ed.gov/offices/      TDD: (202)205-5465                         and Rehabilitation Services, Office of
OSERS/OSEP/earlywrn.html and in al-          FIRS 1-800-877-8339,                       Special Education Programs, under the
ternate formats upon request. For more       8 a.m. - 8 p.m., ET, M-F                   Individuals with Disabilities Education
information, please contact us at:                                                      Act (IDEA). Dissemination of the guide
                                             This guide was produced by the Center      was supported by the Office of Elemen-
U.S. Department of Education                 for Effective Collaboration and Practice   tary and Secondary Education, Safe and
Special Education and Rehabilitative         of the American Institutes for Research    Drug-Free Schools Program.
   Services                                  in collaboration with the National Asso-
Room 3131 Mary E. Switzer Building           ciation of School Psychologists, under a   Dwyer, K., Osher, D., and Warger, C.
Washington, D.C. 20202-2524                  cooperative agreement with the U.S. De-    (1998). Early warning, timely response:
                                             partment of Education, Office of Special   A guide to safe schools. Washington, DC:
                                             Education and Rehabilitative Services,     U.S. Department of Education.
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/        Office of Special Education Programs
earlywrn.html                                (grant# H237T60005).                       August 1998
        Executive Summary

                               Early Warning,
                               Timely Response
                               A Guide to Safe Schools

                               Although most schools are safe,         Sections in this guide include:
                               the violence that occurs in our
                                                                       • Section 1: Introduction. All
                               neighborhoods and communities
                                                                         staff, students, parents, and
                               has found its way inside the
                                                                         members of the community
                               schoolhouse door. However, if we
                                                                         must be part of creating a safe
                               understand what leads to violence
                                                                         school environment. Schools
                               and the types of support that re-
                                                                         must have in place approaches
                               search has shown are effective in
                                                                         for addressing the needs of all
                               preventing violence, we can make
                                                                         children who have troubling
                               our schools safer.
                                                                         behaviors. This section de-
The full text of this public   Research-based practices can help         scribes the rationale for the
domain publication is avail-   school communities—administra-            guide and suggests how it can
able at the Department’s
home page at http://
                               tors, teachers, families, students,       be used by school communities
www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/      support staff, and community              to develop a plan of action.
OSEP/earlywrn.html.            members—recognize the warning
                                                                       • Section 2: Characteristics of a
                               signs early, so children can get the
                                                                         School That Is Safe and Re-
                               help they need before it is too late.
                                                                         sponsive to All Children. Well
                               This guide presents a brief sum-
                                                                         functioning schools foster
                               mary of the research on violence
                                                                         learning, safety, and socially
                               prevention and intervention and
                                                                         appropriate behaviors. They
                               crisis response in schools. It tells
                                                                         have a strong academic focus
                               school communities:
                                                                         and support students in achiev-
                               • What to look for—the early              ing high standards, foster posi-
                                 warning signs that relate to vio-       tive relationships between
                                 lence and other troubling be-           school staff and students, and
                                 haviors.                                promote meaningful parental
                                                                         and community involvement.
                               • What to do—the action steps
                                                                         This section describes charac-
                                 that school communities can
                                                                         teristics of schools that support
                                 take to prevent violence and
                                                                         prevention, appropriate inter-
                                 other troubling behaviors, to
                                                                         vention, and effective crisis re-
                                 intervene and get help for
                                 troubled children, and to re-
                                 spond to school violence when         • Section 3: Early Warning
                                 it occurs.                              Signs. There are early warning

  signs that, when viewed in con-        works. This section offers sug-
  text, can signal a troubled child.     gestions for developing such
  Educators and parents—and in           plans.
  some cases, students—can use
                                       • Section 6: Responding to Cri-
  several significant principles to
                                         sis. Effective and safe schools
  ensure that the early warning
                                         are well prepared for any poten-
  signs are not misinterpreted.
                                         tial crisis or violent act. This
  This section presents early
                                         section describes what to do
  warning signs, imminent warn-
                                         when intervening during a cri-
  ing signs, and the principles
                                         sis to ensure safety and when
  that ensure these signs will not
                                         responding in the aftermath of
  be misinterpreted. It concludes
                                         crisis. The principles that un-
  with a brief description of us-
                                         derlie effective crisis response
  ing the early warning signs to
                                         are included.
  shape intervention practices.
                                       • Section 7: Conclusion. This
• Section 4: Getting Help for
                                         section summarizes the guide.
  Troubled Children. Effective
  interventions for improving the      • Section 8: Methodology, Con-
  behavior of troubled children          tributors, and Research Sup-
  are well documented in the re-         port. This guide synthesizes an
  search literature. This section        extensive knowledge base on
  presents research- and expert-         violence and violence preven-
  based principles that should           tion. This section describes the
  provide the foundation for all         rigorous development and re-
  intervention development. It           view process that was used. It
  describes what to do when in-          also provides information
  tervening early with students          about the project’s Web site.
  who are at risk for behavioral
                                       A final section lists resources that
  problems, when responding
                                       can be contacted for more infor-
  with intensive interventions for
  individual children, and when
  providing a foundation to pre-       The information in this guide is
  vent and reduce violent behav-       not intended as a comprehensive
  ior.                                 prevention, intervention, and re-
                                       sponse plan—school communities
• Section 5: Developing a Pre-         could do everything recom-
  vention and Response Plan.           mended and still experience vio-
  Effective schools create a vio-      lence. Rather, the intent is to pro-
  lence prevention and response        vide school communities with re-
  plan and form a team that can        liable and practical information
  ensure it is implemented. They       about what they can do to be pre-
  use approaches and strategies        pared and to reduce the likelihood
  based on research about what         of violence.

Letter ............................................................................................................................. i

Executive Summary ..................................................................................................... ii

A Guide to Safe Schools ............................................................................................... 1
       About This Guide ............................................................................................................................................ 1
       Using the Guide To Develop a Plan of Action ................................................................................................ 2

Characteristics of a School That Is Safe and Responsive to All Children ................. 3

Early Warning Signs ..................................................................................................... 6
       Principles for Identifying the Early Warning Signs of School Violence .......................................................... 6
       Early Warning Signs ........................................................................................................................................ 8
       Identifying and Responding to Imminent Warning Signs ............................................................................. 11
       Using the Early Warning Signs To Shape Intervention Practices ................................................................. 12

Intervention: Getting Help for Troubled Children .................................................... 13
       Principles Underlying Intervention ............................................................................................................... 13
       Intervening Early with Students Who Are at Risk for Behavioral Problems ................................................ 16
       Providing Intensive, Individualized Interventions for Students
       with Severe Behavioral Problems ................................................................................................................. 19
       Providing a Foundation To Prevent and Reduce Violent Behavior .............................................................. 19

Developing a Prevention and Response Plan ............................................................ 23
       Creating the Violence Prevention and Response Plan .................................................................................. 23
       Forming the Prevention and Response Team ................................................................................................ 24

Responding to Crisis ................................................................................................... 27
       Principles Underlying Crisis Response ......................................................................................................... 27
       Intervening During a Crisis To Ensure Safety .............................................................................................. 27
       Responding in the Aftermath of Crisis .......................................................................................................... 28

Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 31

Methodology, Contributors, and Research Support .................................................. 32

Resources ...................................................................................................... Back Cover
                                                      Section 1: Introduction

A Guide to Safe Schools

Most schools are safe. Although        nities recognize the warning signs
fewer than one percent of all vio-     early, so children can get the help
lent deaths of children occur on       they need before it is too late. In
school grounds—indeed, a child         fact, research suggests that some
is far more likely to be killed in     of the most promising prevention
the community or at home—no            and intervention strategies in-
school is immune.                      volve the entire educational com-
                                       munity—administrators, teach-
The violence that occurs in our
                                       ers, families, students, support
neighborhoods and communities
                                       staff, and community members—
has found its way inside the
                                       working together to form positive
schoolhouse door. And while we
                                       relationships with all children.
can take some solace in the
knowledge that schools are among       If we understand what leads to
the safest places for young people,    violence and the types of support
we must do more. School violence       that research has shown are effec-
reflects a much broader problem,       tive in preventing violence and
one that can only be addressed         other troubling behaviors, we can
when everyone—at school, at            make our schools safer.
home, and in the community—
works together.
                                       About This Guide
The 1997-1998 school year served
                                       This guide presents a brief sum-
as a dramatic wake-up call to the
                                       mary of the research on violence
fact that guns do come to school,
                                       prevention and intervention and
and some students will use them
                                       crisis response in schools (see
to kill. One after the other, school
                                       Section 8 for a review of method-
communities across the country—
                                       ology and information on how to
from Oregon to Virginia, from Ar-
                                       locate the research). It tells mem-
kansas to Pennsylvania, from Mis-
                                       bers of school communities—es-
sissippi to Kentucky—have been
                                       pecially administrators, teachers,
forced to face the fact that vio-
                                       staff, families, students, and com-
lence can happen to them. And
                                       munity-based professionals:
while these serious incidents
trouble us deeply, they should not     • What to look for—the early
prevent us from acting to prevent        warning signs that relate to vio-
school violence of any kind.             lence and other troubling be-
There is ample documentation
that prevention and early inter-       • What to do—the action steps
vention efforts can reduce vio-          that school communities can
lence and other troubling behav-         take to prevent violence and
iors in schools. Research-based          other troubling behaviors, to
practices can help school commu-         intervene and get help for

                                  troubled children, and to re-         tification and appropriate inter-
                                  spond to school violence when         vention.
                                  it occurs.
                                The information in each section
                                is not intended as a comprehen-         Using the Guide To
                                sive prevention, intervention, and      Develop a Plan of
                                response system or plan. Indeed,        Action
                                school violence occurs in a unique
                                context in every school and every       All staff, students, parents, and
                                situation, making a one-size-fits-      members of the community must
                                all scheme impossible. Moreover,        be part of creating a safe school
                                school communities could do ev-         environment:
                                erything recommended and still          • Everyone has a personal re-
                                experience violence. Rather, this         sponsibility for reducing the
                                guide is designed to provide              risk of violence. We must take
                                school communities with reliable          steps to maintain order, demon-
“Violence is a major con-       and practical information about
cern to parents, students,                                                strate mutual respect and car-
teachers, and the adminis-      what they can do to be prepared           ing for one another, and ensure
tration of any school. We       and to reduce the likelihood of           that children who are troubled
have found that our best        violence.                                 get the help they need.
plan starts with prevention
and awareness. At our           Creating a safe school requires         • Everyone should have an un-
middle school, the school       having in place many preventive           derstanding of the early warn-
psychologist, in conjunc-       measures for children’s mental
tion with the assistant prin-
                                                                          ing signs that help identify stu-
                                and emotional problems—as well            dents who may be headed for
cipal, has developed an
anti-intimidation and threat    as a comprehensive approach to            trouble.
plan. Our school statistics     early identification of all warning
reflect a dramatic decline in   signs that might lead to violence       • Everyone should be prepared to
violence from the 1996-97       toward self or others. The term           respond appropriately in a cri-
to the 1997-98 school year.     “violence” as used in this book-          sis situation.
We treat each and every stu-
                                let, refers to a broad range of trou-
dent with respect. We are                                               Research and expert-based infor-
finding that they in turn are   bling behaviors and emotions
                                                                        mation offers a wealth of knowl-
demonstrating a more re-        shown by students—including
spectful attitude.”                                                     edge about preventing violence in
                                serious aggression, physical at-
                                                                        schools. The following sections
G. Norma Villar Baker,          tacks, suicide, dangerous use of
                                                                        provide information—what to
Principal, Midvale, UT          drugs, and other dangerous inter-
                                                                        look for and what to do—that
                                personal behaviors. However, the
                                                                        school communities can use when
                                early warning signs presented in
                                                                        developing or enhancing violence
                                this document focus primarily on
                                                                        prevention and response plans
                                aggressive and violent behaviors
                                                                        (see Section 5 for more informa-
                                toward others. The guide does not
                                                                        tion about these plans).
                                attempt to address all of the warn-
                                ing signs related to depression and     We hope that school communities
                                suicide. Nevertheless, some of the      will use this document as a guide
                                signs of potential violence toward      as they begin the prevention and
                                others are also signs of depression     healing process today, at all age
                                and suicidal risk, which should         and grade levels, and for all stu-
                                be addressed through early iden-        dents.

                                             Section 2: What To Look For

Characteristics of a
School That Is Safe and
Responsive to All Children

Well functioning schools foster        • Involve families in meaningful
learning, safety, and socially ap-       ways. Students whose families
propriate behaviors. They have a         are involved in their growth in
strong academic focus and sup-           and outside of school are more
port students in achieving high          likely to experience school suc-
standards, foster positive relation-     cess and less likely to become
ships between school staff and           involved in antisocial activities.
students, and promote meaning-           School communities must
ful parental and community in-           make parents feel welcome in
volvement. Most prevention pro-          school, address barriers to their
grams in effective schools address       participation, and keep families
multiple factors and recognize           positively engaged in their
that safety and order are related        children’s education. Effective
to children’s social, emotional,         schools also support families in
and academic development.                expressing concerns about their
                                         children—and they support
Effective prevention, intervention,
                                         families in getting the help they
and crisis response strategies op-
                                         need to address behaviors that
erate best in school communities
                                         cause concern.
                                       • Develop links to the commu-
• Focus on academic achieve-
                                         nity. Everyone must be commit-
  ment. Effective schools convey
                                         ted to improving schools.
  the attitude that all children
                                         Schools that have close ties to
  can achieve academically and
                                         families, support services, com-
  behave appropriately, while at
                                         munity police, the faith-based
  the same time appreciating in-
                                         community, and the commu-
  dividual differences. Adequate
                                         nity at large can benefit from
  resources and programs help
                                         many valuable resources. When
  ensure that expectations are
                                         these links are weak, the risk
  met. Expectations are commu-
                                         of school violence is heightened
  nicated clearly, with the under-
                                         and the opportunity to serve
  standing that meeting such ex-
                                         children who are at risk for vio-
  pectations is a responsibility of
                                         lence or who may be affected
  the student, the school, and the
                                         by it is decreased.
  home. Students who do not re-
  ceive the support they need are      • Emphasize positive relation-
  less likely to behave in socially      ships among students and
  desirable ways.                        staff. Research shows that a

                                 positive relationship with an          orientation, physical appear-
                                 adult who is available to pro-         ance, or some other factor—
                                 vide support when needed is            both by staff and by peers. Stu-
                                 one of the most critical factors       dents who have been treated
                                 in preventing student violence.        unfairly may become scape-
                                 Students often look to adults in       goats and/or targets of violence.
                                 the school community for guid-         In some cases, victims may re-
                                 ance, support, and direction.          act in aggressive ways. Effective
                                 Some children need help over-          schools communicate to stu-
                                 coming feelings of isolation and       dents and the greater commu-
                                 support in developing connec-          nity that all children are valued
                                 tions to others. Effective             and respected. There is a delib-
                                 schools make sure that oppor-          erate and systematic effort—for
                                 tunities exist for adults to spend     example, displaying children’s
                                 quality, personal time with chil-      artwork, posting academic
                                 dren. Effective schools also fos-      work prominently throughout
                                 ter positive student interper-         the building, respecting stu-
                                 sonal relations—they encour-           dents’ diversity—to establish a
“I just recently got out of      age students to help each other        climate that demonstrates care
the hospital. I was a victim     and to feel comfortable assist-        and a sense of community.
of a shooting at my school.
I’ve been teaching for 20        ing others in getting help when
                                                                      • Create ways for students to
years and I never thought        needed.
                                                                        share their concerns. It has
it could happen at my
school. Some of the kids                                                been found that peers often are
                               • Discuss safety issues openly.
knew about it before it hap-                                            the most likely group to know
                                 Children come to school with
pened, but they didn’t want                                             in advance about potential
to say anything—they have        many different perceptions—
                                                                        school violence. Schools must
a code of honor and they         and misconceptions—about
                                                                        create ways for students to
did not want to tattle tale.     death, violence, and the use of
But someone has to stand                                                safely report such troubling be-
                                 weapons. Schools can reduce
up, someone has to take a                                               haviors that may lead to dan-
                                 the risk of violence by teaching
stand because, if you don’t,                                            gerous situations. And students
then somebody else is go-        children about the dangers of
                                                                        who report potential school vio-
ing to get hurt.”                firearms, as well as appropriate
                                                                        lence must be protected. It is
                                 strategies for dealing with feel-
Gregory Carter, Teacher,                                                important for schools to sup-
Richmond, VA                     ings, expressing anger in appro-
                                                                        port and foster positive rela-
                                 priate ways, and resolving con-
                                                                        tionships between students and
                                 flicts. Schools also should teach
                                                                        adults so students will feel safe
                                 children that they are respon-
                                                                        providing information about a
                                 sible for their actions and that
                                                                        potentially dangerous situation.
                                 the choices they make have
                                 consequences for which they          • Help children feel safe express-
                                 will be held accountable.              ing their feelings. It is very im-
                                                                        portant that children feel safe
                               • Treat students with equal re-          when expressing their needs,
                                 spect. A major source of con-          fears, and anxieties to school
                                 flict in many schools is the per-      staff. When they do not have
                                 ceived or real problem of bias         access to caring adults, feelings
                                 and unfair treatment of stu-           of isolation, rejection, and dis-
                                 dents because of ethnicity, gen-       appointment are more likely to
                                 der, race, social class, religion,     occur, increasing the probabil-
                                 disability, nationality, sexual        ity of acting-out behaviors.

• Have in place a system for re-        tively examine circumstances
  ferring children who are sus-         that are potentially dangerous
  pected of being abused or ne-         for students and staff and situ-
  glected. The referral system          ations where members of the
  must be appropriate and reflect       school community feel threat-
  federal and state guidelines.         ened or intimidated. Safe
                                        schools continually assess
• Offer extended day programs           progress by identifying prob-
  for children. School-based be-        lems and collecting information
  fore- and after-school programs       regarding progress toward solu-
  can be effective in reducing vio-     tions. Moreover, effective
  lence. Effective programs are         schools share this information
  well supervised and provide           with students, families, and the
  children with support and a           community at large.
  range of options, such as coun-
  seling, tutoring, mentoring, cul-   • Support students in making
  tural arts, community service,        the transition to adult life and
  clubs, access to computers, and       the workplace. Youth need as-
  help with homework.                   sistance in planning their future
                                        and in developing skills that
• Promote good citizenship and          will result in success. For ex-     “We must avoid fragmenta-
  character. In addition to their                                           tion in implementing pro-
                                        ample, schools can provide stu-     grams. The concepts in pre-
  academic mission, schools             dents with community service        venting and responding to
  must help students become             opportunities, work-study pro-      violence must be integrated
  good citizens. First, schools         grams, and apprenticeships          into effective school reform,
  stand for the civic values set        that help connect them to car-      including socially and aca-
  forth in our Constitution and                                             demically supportive in-
                                        ing adults in the community.        struction and caring, a wel-
  Bill of Rights (patriotism; free-     These relationships, when es-       coming atmosphere, and
  dom of religion, speech, and          tablished early, foster in youth    providing good options for
  press; equal protection/nondis-       a sense of hope and security for    recreation and enrich-
  crimination; and due process/         the future.                         ment.”
  fairness). Schools also reinforce                                         Howard Adelman, Professor
  and promote the shared values       Research has demonstrated re-         of Psychology, University of
  of their local communities,         peatedly that school communities      California, Los Angeles

  such as honesty, kindness, re-      can do a great deal to prevent vio-
  sponsibility, and respect for       lence. Having in place a safe and
  others. Schools should ac-          responsive foundation helps all
  knowledge that parents are the      children—and it enables school
  primary moral educators of          communities to provide more ef-
  their children and work in part-    ficient and effective services to
  nership with them.                  students who need more support.
                                      The next step is to learn the early
• Identify problems and assess        warning signs of a child who is
  progress toward solutions.          troubled, so that effective inter-
  Schools must openly and objec-      ventions can be provided.
         Section 3: What To Look For

                                   Early Warning Signs

                                   Why didn’t we see it coming? In        a child, but it’s not okay to over-
                                   the wake of violence, we ask this      react and jump to conclusions.
                                   question not so much to place
                                                                          Teachers and administrators—
                                   blame, but to understand better
                                                                          and other school support staff—
                                   what we can do to prevent such
                                                                          are not professionally trained to
                                   an occurrence from ever happen-
                                                                          analyze children’s feelings and
                                   ing again. We review over and over
                                                                          motives. But they are on the front
                                   in our minds the days leading up
                                                                          line when it comes to observing
                                   to the incident—did the child say
                                                                          troublesome behavior and making
                                   or do anything that would have
                                                                          referrals to appropriate profes-
                                   cued us in to the impending cri-
                                                                          sionals, such as school psycholo-
                                   sis? Did we miss an opportunity
Use the Signs                                                             gists, social workers, counselors,
                                   to help?
Responsibly                                                               and nurses. They also play a sig-
It is important to avoid in-
                                   There are early warning signs in       nificant role in responding to di-
appropriately labeling or          most cases of violence to self and     agnostic information provided by
stigmatizing individual stu-       others—certain behavioral and          specialists. Thus, it is no surprise
dents because they appear          emotional signs that, when             that effective schools take special
to fit a specific profile or set   viewed in context, can signal a        care in training the entire school
of early warning indicators.
It’s okay to be worried
                                   troubled child. But early warning      community to understand and
about a child, but it’s not        signs are just that—indicators         identify early warning signs.
okay to overreact and jump         that a student may need help.
to conclusions.
                                                                          When staff members seek help for
                                   Such signs may or may not indi-        a troubled child, when friends re-
                                   cate a serious problem—they do         port worries about a peer or
                                   not necessarily mean that a child      friend, when parents raise con-
                                   is prone to violence toward self or    cerns about their child’s thoughts
                                   others. Rather, early warning signs    or habits, children can get the help
                                   provide us with the impetus to         they need. By actively sharing in-
                                   check out our concerns and ad-         formation, a school community
                                   dress the child’s needs. Early         can provide quick, effective re-
                                   warning signs allow us to act re-      sponses.
                                   sponsibly by getting help for the
                                   child before problems escalate.        Principles for
                                                                          Identifying the
                                   Early warning signs can help
                                                                          Early Warning
                                   frame concern for a child. How-
                                                                          Signs of School
                                   ever, it is important to avoid in-
                                   appropriately labeling or stigma-
                                   tizing individual students because     Educators and families can in-
                                   they appear to fit a specific pro-     crease their ability to recognize
                                   file or set of early warning indica-   early warning signs by establish-
                                   tors. It’s okay to be worried about    ing close, caring, and supportive

relationships with children and           social environment. In fact, for
youth—getting to know them well           those children who are at risk
enough to be aware of their needs,        for aggression and violence,
feelings, attitudes, and behavior         certain environments or situa-
patterns. Educators and parents           tions can set it off. Some chil-
together can review school                dren may act out if stress be-
records for patterns of behavior or       comes too great, if they lack
sudden changes in behavior.               positive coping skills, and if
                                          they have learned to react with
Unfortunately, there is a real dan-
ger that early warning signs will
be misinterpreted. Educators and        • Avoid stereotypes. Stereotypes
parents—and in some cases, stu-           can interfere with—and even
dents—can ensure that the early           harm—the school community’s
warning signs are not misinter-           ability to identify and help chil-
preted by using several significant       dren. It is important to be aware
principles to better understand           of false cues—including race,
them. These principles include:           socio-economic status, cogni-
                                          tive or academic ability, or
• Do no harm. There are certain
                                          physical appearance. In fact,
  risks associated with using
                                          such stereotypes can unfairly
  early warning signs to identify                                              “When doing consultation
                                          harm children, especially when
  children who are troubled. First                                             with school staff and fami-
                                          the school community acts
  and foremost, the intent should                                              lies, we advise them to
                                          upon them.                           think of the early warning
  be to get help for a child early.
  The early warning signs should        • View warning signs within a          signs within a context. We
                                                                               encourage them to look for
  not to be used as rationale to          developmental context. Chil-         combinations of warning
  exclude, isolate, or punish a           dren and youth at different lev-     signs that might tell us the
  child. Nor should they be used          els of development have vary-        student’s behavior is chang-
  as a checklist for formally iden-       ing social and emotional capa-       ing and becoming more
  tifying, mislabeling, or stereo-        bilities. They may express their     problematic.”
  typing children. Formal disabil-        needs differently in elementary,     Deborah Crockett, School
                                                                               Psychologist, Atlanta, GA
  ity identification under federal        middle, and high school. The
  law requires individualized             point is to know what is devel-
  evaluation by qualified profes-         opmentally typical behavior, so
  sionals. In addition, all referrals     that behaviors are not misinter-
  to outside agencies based on            preted.
  the early warning signs must be
                                        • Understand that children typi-
  kept confidential and must be
                                          cally exhibit multiple warning
  done with parental consent (ex-
                                          signs. It is common for children
  cept referrals for suspected
                                          who are troubled to exhibit
  child abuse or neglect).
                                          multiple signs. Research con-
• Understand violence and ag-             firms that most children who
  gression within a context. Vio-         are troubled and at risk for ag-
  lence is contextual. Violent and        gression exhibit more than one
  aggressive behavior as an ex-           warning sign, repeatedly, and
  pression of emotion may have            with increasing intensity over
  many antecedent factors—fac-            time. Thus, it is important not
  tors that exist within the              to overreact to single signs,
  school, the home, and the larger        words, or actions.
                               Early Warning                          should make diagnoses in consul-
                               Signs                                  tation with the child’s parents or
                               It is not always possible to predict
                               behavior that will lead to violence.   The following early warning signs
                               However, educators and par-            are presented with the following
                               ents—and sometimes students—           qualifications: They are not
                               can recognize certain early warn-      equally significant and they are
                               ing signs. In some situations and      not presented in order of serious-
                               for some youth, different combi-       ness. The early warning signs in-
                               nations of events, behaviors, and      clude:
                               emotions may lead to aggressive
                               rage or violent behavior toward        • Social withdrawal. In some
                               self or others. A good rule of           situations, gradual and eventu-
                               thumb is to assume that these            ally complete withdrawal from
                               warning signs, especially when           social contacts can be an im-
                               they are presented in combina-           portant indicator of a troubled
                               tion, indicate a need for further        child. The withdrawal often
                               analysis to determine an appropri-       stems from feelings of depres-
                               ate intervention.                        sion, rejection, persecution,
                                                                        unworthiness, and lack of con-
                               We know from research that most          fidence.
Use the Signs                  children who become violent to-
Responsibly                    ward self or others feel rejected      • Excessive feelings of isolation
                               and psychologically victimized. In       and being alone. Research has
None of these signs alone
is sufficient for predicting   most cases, children exhibit ag-         shown that the majority of chil-
aggression and violence.       gressive behavior early in life and,     dren who are isolated and ap-
Moreover, it is inappropri-    if not provided support, will con-       pear to be friendless are not vio-
ate—and potentially harm-      tinue a progressive developmen-          lent. In fact, these feelings are
ful—to use the early warn-                                              sometimes characteristic of
ing signs as a checklist       tal pattern toward severe aggres-
against which to match in-     sion or violence. However, re-           children and youth who may be
dividual children.             search also shows that when chil-        troubled, withdrawn, or have
                               dren have a positive, meaningful         internal issues that hinder de-
                               connection to an adult—whether           velopment of social affiliations.
                               it be at home, in school, or in the      However, research also has
                               community—the potential for vio-         shown that in some cases feel-
                               lence is reduced significantly.          ings of isolation and not hav-
                                                                        ing friends are associated with
                               None of these signs alone is suffi-      children who behave aggres-
                               cient for predicting aggression and      sively and violently.
                               violence. Moreover, it is inappro-
                               priate—and potentially harmful—        • Excessive feelings of rejection.
                               to use the early warning signs as        In the process of growing up,
                               a checklist against which to match       and in the course of adolescent
                               individual children. Rather, the         development, many young
                               early warning signs are offered          people experience emotionally
                               only as an aid in identifying and        painful rejection. Children who
                               referring children who may need          are troubled often are isolated
                               help. School communities must            from their mentally healthy
                               ensure that staff and students only      peers. Their responses to rejec-
                               use the early warning signs for          tion will depend on many back-
                               identification and referral pur-         ground factors. Without sup-
                               poses—only trained professionals         port, they may be at risk of ex-

  pressing their emotional dis-         and youth often express their
  tress in negative ways—includ-        thoughts, feelings, desires, and
  ing violence. Some aggressive         intentions in their drawings
  children who are rejected by          and in stories, poetry, and other
  non-aggressive peers seek out         written expressive forms. Many
  aggressive friends who, in turn,      children produce work about
  reinforce their violent tenden-       violent themes that for the most
  cies.                                 part is harmless when taken in
                                        context. However, an overrep-
• Being a victim of violence. Chil-
                                        resentation of violence in writ-
  dren who are victims of vio-
                                        ings and drawings that is di-
  lence—including physical or
                                        rected at specific individuals
  sexual abuse—in the commu-
                                        (family members, peers, other
  nity, at school, or at home are
                                        adults) consistently over time,
  sometimes at risk themselves of
                                        may signal emotional problems
  becoming violent toward them-
                                        and the potential for violence.
  selves or others.
                                        Because there is a real danger
• Feelings of being picked on and       in misdiagnosing such a sign,
  persecuted. The youth who             it is important to seek the guid-
  feels constantly picked on,           ance of a qualified profes-
  teased, bullied, singled out for      sional—such as a school psy-
  ridicule, and humiliated at           chologist, counselor, or other
  home or at school may initially       mental health specialist—to
  withdraw socially. If not given       determine its meaning.
  adequate support in addressing
  these feelings, some children       • Uncontrolled anger. Everyone
  may vent them in inappropri-          gets angry; anger is a natural
  ate ways—including possible           emotion. However, anger that
  aggression or violence.               is expressed frequently and in-
                                        tensely in response to minor ir-
• Low school interest and poor          ritants may signal potential vio-
  academic performance. Poor            lent behavior toward self or oth-
  school achievement can be the         ers.
  result of many factors. It is im-
  portant to consider whether         • Patterns of impulsive and
  there is a drastic change in per-     chronic hitting, intimidating,
  formance and/or poor perfor-          and bullying behaviors. Chil-
  mance becomes a chronic con-          dren often engage in acts of
  dition that limits the child’s        shoving and mild aggression.
  capacity to learn. In some situ-      However, some mildly aggres-
  ations—such as when the low           sive behaviors such as constant
  achiever feels frustrated, un-        hitting and bullying of others
  worthy, chastised, and deni-          that occur early in children’s
  grated—acting out and aggres-         lives, if left unattended, might
  sive behaviors may occur. It is       later escalate into more serious
  important to assess the emo-          behaviors.
  tional and cognitive reasons for
                                      • History of discipline problems.
  the academic performance
                                        Chronic behavior and disciplin-
  change to determine the true
                                        ary problems both in school
  nature of the problem.
                                        and at home may suggest that
• Expression of violence in writ-       underlying emotional needs are
  ings and drawings. Children           not being met. These unmet
       needs may be manifested in act-        toward others based on racial,
       ing out and aggressive behav-          ethnic, religious, language, gen-
       iors. These problems may set           der, sexual orientation, ability,
       the stage for the child to vio-        and physical appearance—
       late norms and rules, defy au-         when coupled with other fac-
       thority, disengage from school,        tors—may lead to violent as-
       and engage in aggressive behav-        saults against those who are
       iors with other children and           perceived to be different. Mem-
       adults.                                bership in hate groups or the
                                              willingness to victimize indi-
     • Past history of violent and ag-
                                              viduals with disabilities or
       gressive behavior. Unless pro-
                                              health problems also should be
       vided with support and coun-
                                              treated as early warning signs.
       seling, a youth who has a his-
       tory of aggressive or violent        • Drug use and alcohol use.
       behavior is likely to repeat           Apart from being unhealthy be-
       those behaviors. Aggressive            haviors, drug use and alcohol
       and violent acts may be di-            use reduces self-control and ex-
       rected toward other individu-          poses children and youth to vio-
       als, be expressed in cruelty to        lence, either as perpetrators, as
       animals, or include fire setting.      victims, or both.
       Youth who show an early pat-
       tern of antisocial behavior fre-     • Affiliation with gangs. Gangs
       quently and across multiple set-       that support anti-social values
       tings are particularly at risk for     and behaviors—including ex-
       future aggressive and antisocial       tortion, intimidation, and acts
       behavior. Similarly, youth who         of violence toward other stu-
       engage in overt behaviors such         dents—cause fear and stress
       as bullying, generalized aggres-       among other students. Youth
       sion and defiance, and covert          who are influenced by these
       behaviors such as stealing, van-       groups—those who emulate
       dalism, lying, cheating, and fire      and copy their behavior, as well
       setting also are at risk for more      as those who become affiliated
       serious aggressive behavior. Re-       with them—may adopt these
       search suggests that age of on-        values and act in violent or ag-
       set may be a key factor in inter-      gressive ways in certain situa-
       preting early warning signs. For       tions. Gang-related violence
       example, children who engage           and turf battles are common
       in aggression and drug abuse at        occurrences tied to the use of
       an early age (before age 12) are       drugs that often result in injury
       more likely to show violence           and/or death.
       later on than are children who
                                            • Inappropriate access to, pos-
       begin such behavior at an older
                                              session of, and use of firearms.
       age. In the presence of such
                                              Children and youth who inap-
       signs it is important to review
                                              propriately possess or have ac-
       the child’s history with behav-
                                              cess to firearms can have an
       ioral experts and seek parents’
                                              increased risk for violence. Re-
       observations and insights.
                                              search shows that such young-
     • Intolerance for differences and        sters also have a higher prob-
       prejudicial attitudes. All chil-       ability of becoming victims.
       dren have likes and dislikes.          Families can reduce inappropri-
       However, an intense prejudice          ate access and use by restrict-
  ing, monitoring, and supervis-       Imminent warning signs may in-
  ing children’s access to firearms    clude:
  and other weapons. Children
  who have a history of aggres-        • Serious physical fighting with
  sion, impulsiveness, or other          peers or family members.
  emotional problems should not        • Severe destruction of property.
  have access to firearms and
  other weapons.                       • Severe rage for seemingly mi-
                                         nor reasons.
• Serious threats of violence. Idle
  threats are a common response        • Detailed threats of lethal vio-
  to frustration. Alternatively,         lence.
  one of the most reliable indica-     • Possession and/or use of fire-
  tors that a youth is likely to         arms and other weapons.
  commit a dangerous act toward                                               Know the Law
  self or others is a detailed and     • Other self-injurious behaviors       The Gun Free Schools Act
  specific threat to use violence.       or threats of suicide.               requires that each state re-
  Recent incidents across the                                                 ceiving federal funds under
  country clearly indicate that        When warning signs indicate that       the Elementary and Sec-
                                       danger is imminent, safety must        ondary Education Act
  threats to commit violence                                                  (ESEA) must have put in
  against oneself or others should     always be the first and foremost       effect, by October 1995, a
  be taken very seriously. Steps       consideration. Action must be          state law requiring local
  must be taken to understand          taken immediately. Immediate in-       educational agencies to ex-
  the nature of these threats and      tervention by school authorities       pel from school for a period
                                       and possibly law enforcement of-       of not less than one year a
  to prevent them from being car-                                             student who is determined
  ried out.                            ficers is needed when a child:         to have brought a firearm to
                                       • Has presented a detailed plan        school.

Identifying and                          (time, place, method) to harm        Each state’s law also must
                                         or kill others—particularly if       allow the chief administer-
Responding to                                                                 ing officer of the local edu-
Imminent Warning                         the child has a history of aggres-   cational agency to modify
Signs                                    sion or has attempted to carry       the expulsion requirement
                                         out threats in the past.             on a case-by-case basis. All
Unlike early warning signs, immi-                                             local educational agencies
nent warning signs indicate that       • Is carrying a weapon, particu-       receiving ESEA funds must
a student is very close to behav-        larly a firearm, and has threat-     have a policy that requires
                                         ened to use it.                      the referral of any student
ing in a way that is potentially                                              who brings a firearm to
dangerous to self and/or to oth-                                              school to the criminal jus-
                                       In situations where students
ers. Imminent warning signs re-                                               tice or juvenile justice sys-
                                       present other threatening behav-
quire an immediate response.                                                  tem.
                                       iors, parents should be informed
No single warning sign can pre-        of the concerns immediately.
dict that a dangerous act will oc-     School communities also have the
cur. Rather, imminent warning          responsibility to seek assistance
signs usually are presented as a se-   from appropriate agencies, such
quence of overt, serious, hostile      as child and family services and
behaviors or threats directed at       community mental health. These
peers, staff, or other individuals.    responses should reflect school
Usually, imminent warning signs        board policies and be consistent
are evident to more than one staff     with the violence prevention and
member—as well as to the child’s       response plan (for more informa-
family.                                tion see Section 5).
                                Using the Early                        Each school community should
                                Warning Signs To                       develop a procedure that students
                                Shape Intervention                     and staff can follow when report-
                                Practices                              ing their concerns about a child
                                                                       who exhibits early warning signs.
                                An early warning sign is not a pre-    For example, in many schools the
                                dictor that a child or youth will      principal is the first point of con-
                                commit a violent act toward self       tact. In cases that do not pose
                                or others. Effective schools recog-    imminent danger, the principal
                                nize the potential in every child      contacts a school psychologist or
                                to overcome difficult experiences      other qualified professional, who
                                and to control negative emotions.      takes responsibility for addressing
                                Adults in these school communi-        the concern immediately. If the
                                ties use their knowledge of early      concern is determined to be seri-
                                warning signs to address problems      ous—but not to pose a threat of
                                before they escalate into violence.    imminent danger—the child’s
                                                                       family should be contacted. The
                                Effective school communities sup-
                                                                       family should be consulted before
                                port staff, students, and families
                                                                       implementing any interventions
                                in understanding the early warn-
                                                                       with the child. In cases where
                                ing signs. Support strategies in-
                                                                       school-based contextual factors
                                clude having:
“Being proactive and hav-                                              are determined to be causing or
ing the ability to consult                                             exacerbating the child’s troubling
and meet with my school         • School board policies in place
                                                                       behavior, the school should act
psychologist on an ongoing        that support training and ongo-
                                                                       quickly to modify them.
basis has helped create a         ing consultation. The entire
positive school environ-          school community knows how           It is often difficult to acknowledge
ment in terms of resolving        to identify early warning signs,     that a child is troubled. Every-
student issues prior to their
reaching a crisis level.”         and understands the principles       one—including administrators,
                                  that support them.                   families, teachers, school staff,
J. Randy Alton, Teacher,
Bethesda, MD                                                           students, and community mem-
                                • School leaders who encourage         bers—may find it too troubling
                                  others to raise concerns about       sometimes to admit that a child
                                  observed early warning signs         close to them needs help. When
                                  and to report all observations       faced with resistance or denial,
                                  of imminent warning signs im-        school communities must persist
                                  mediately. This is in addition to    to ensure that children get the
                                  school district policies that        help they need.
                                  sanction and promote the iden-
                                  tification of early warning signs.   Understanding early and immi-
                                                                       nent warning signs is an essential
                                • Easy access to a team of spe-        step in ensuring a safe school. The
                                  cialists trained in evaluating       next step involves supporting the
                                  and addressing serious behav-        emotional and behavioral adjust-
                                  ioral and academic concerns.         ment of children.

                                                        Section 4: What To Do

Intervention: Getting Help
for Troubled Children

Prevention approaches have             ists trained in evaluating serious
proved effective in enabling           behavioral and academic con-
school communities to decrease         cerns. Eligible students should
the frequency and intensity of be-     have access to special education
havior problems. However, pre-         services, and classroom teachers
vention programs alone cannot          should be able to consult school
eliminate the problems of all stu-     psychologists, other mental health
dents. Some 5 to 10 percent of stu-    specialists, counselors, reading
dents will need more intensive         specialists, and special educators.
interventions to decrease their
                                       Effective practices for improving
high-risk behaviors, although the
                                       the behavior of troubled children
percentage can vary among
                                       are well documented in the re-
schools and communities.
                                       search literature. Research has
What happens when we recognize         shown that effective interventions
early warning signs in a child?        are culturally appropriate, family-
                                       supported, individualized, coordi-
The message is clear: It’s okay to
                                       nated, and monitored. Further,
be concerned when you notice
                                       interventions are more effective
warning signs in a child—and it’s
                                       when they are designed and
even more appropriate to do
                                       implemented consistently over
something about those concerns.
                                       time with input from the child, the
School communities that encour-
                                       family, and appropriate profes-
age staff, families, and students to
                                       sionals. Schools also can draw
raise concerns about observed
                                       upon the resources of their com-
warning signs—and that have in
                                       munity to strengthen and enhance
place a process for getting help to
                                       intervention planning.
troubled children once they are
identified—are more likely to have     When drafting a violence preven-
effective schools with reduced dis-    tion and response plan, it is help-
ruption, bullying, fighting, and       ful to consider certain principles
other forms of aggression.             that research or expert-based ex-
                                       perience show have a significant
                                       impact on success. The principles
Principles                             include:
                                       • Share responsibility by estab-
                                         lishing a partnership with the
Violence prevention and response         child, school, home, and com-
plans should consider both pre-          munity. Coordinated service
vention and intervention. Plans          systems should be available for
also should provide all staff with       children who are at risk for vio-
easy access to a team of special-        lent behavior. Effective schools
                                    reach out to include families          be kept confidential. FERPA
                                    and the entire community in            does not prevent disclosure of
                                    the education of children. In          personally identifiable informa-
                                    addition, effective schools co-        tion to appropriate parties—
                                    ordinate and collaborate with          such as law enforcement offi-
                                    child and family service agen-         cials, trained medical person-
                                    cies, law enforcement and ju-          nel, and other emergency per-
                                    venile justice systems, mental         sonnel—when responsible per-
                                    health agencies, businesses,           sonnel determine there is an
                                    faith and ethnic leaders, and          acute emergency (imminent
“Partnerships with local            other community agencies.              danger).
community agencies have
                                  • Inform parents and listen to
created a safer school and                                               • Develop the capacity of staff,
community.”                         them when early warning signs
                                                                           students, and families to inter-
                                    are observed. Parents should be
Sally Baas, Educator, Coon                                                 vene. Many school staff mem-
Rapids, MN                          involved as soon as possible.
                                                                           bers are afraid of saying or do-
                                    Effective and safe schools make
                                                                           ing the wrong thing when faced
                                    persistent efforts to involve par-
                                                                           with a potentially violent stu-
                                    ents by: informing them rou-
                                                                           dent. Effective schools provide
                                    tinely about school discipline
                                                                           the entire school community—
                                    policies, procedures, and rules,
                                                                           teachers, students, parents,
                                    and about their children’s be-
                                                                           support staff—with training
                                    havior (both good and bad);
                                                                           and support in responding to
                                    involving them in making deci-
                                                                           imminent warning signs, pre-
                                    sions concerning schoolwide
                                                                           venting violence, and interven-
                                    disciplinary policies and proce-
                                                                           ing safely and effectively. Inter-
                                    dures; and encouraging them to
                                                                           ventions must be monitored by
                                    participate in prevention pro-
                                                                           professionals who are compe-
                                    grams, intervention programs,
                                                                           tent in the approach. Accord-
                                    and crisis planning. Parents
                                                                           ing to researchers, programs do
                                    need to know what school-
                                                                           not succeed without the ongo-
                                    based interventions are being
“Students should feel a                                                    ing support of administrators,
sense of responsibility to          used with their children and
                                                                           parents, and community lead-
inform someone if they’re           how they can support their suc-
made aware of an indi-              cess.
vidual who may perform a
violent act. They should not      • Maintain confidentiality and         • Support students in being re-
feel like they are tattle tell-     parents’ rights to privacy. Pa-        sponsible for their actions. Ef-
ing, but more in the sense          rental involvement and consent         fective school communities en-
of saving someone’s life.
Students should have a role
                                    is required before personally          courage students to see them-
on the school’s violence            identifiable information is            selves as responsible for their
prevention and response             shared with other agencies, ex-        actions, and actively engage
team because they know              cept in the case of emergencies        them in planning, implement-
what points of student life         or suspicion of abuse. The Fam-        ing, and evaluating violence
and school to target.”
                                    ily Educational Rights and Pri-        prevention initiatives.
Elsa Quiroga, Graduate of           vacy Act (FERPA), a federal
Mount Eden High School
and Student, University of          law that addresses the privacy       • Simplify staff requests for ur-
California at Berkeley              of education records, must be          gent assistance. Many school
                                    observed in all referrals to or        systems and community agen-
                                    sharing of information with            cies have complex legalistic re-
                                    other community agencies. Fur-         ferral systems with timelines
                                    thermore, parent-approved in-          and waiting lists. Children who
                                    teragency communication must           are at risk of endangering them-

                               Tips for Parents

Parents can help create safe schools. Here are some ideas that parents in other
communities have tried:
• Discuss the school’s discipline policy with your child. Show your support for the rules, and help
  your child understand the reasons for them.
• Involve your child in setting rules for appropriate behavior at home.
• Talk with your child about the violence he or she sees—on television, in video games, and possibly
  in the neighborhood. Help your child understand the consequences of violence.
• Teach your child how to solve problems. Praise your child when he or she follows through.
• Help your child find ways to show anger that do not involve verbally or physically hurting others.
  When you get angry, use it as an opportunity to model these appropriate responses for your child—
  and talk about it.
• Help your child understand the value of accepting individual differences.
• Note any disturbing behaviors in your child. For example, frequent angry outbursts, excessive
  fighting and bullying of other children, cruelty to animals, fire setting, frequent behavior problems
  at school and in the neighborhood, lack of friends, and alcohol or drug use can be signs of serious
  problems. Get help for your child. Talk with a trusted professional in your child’s school or in the
• Keep lines of communication open with your child—even when it is tough. Encourage your child
  always to let you know where and with whom he or she will be. Get to know your child’s friends.
• Listen to your child if he or she shares concerns about friends who may be exhibiting troubling
  behaviors. Share this information with a trusted professional, such as the school psychologist,
  principal, or teacher.
• Be involved in your child’s school life by supporting and reviewing homework, talking with his or
  her teacher(s), and attending school functions such as parent conferences, class programs, open
  houses, and PTA meetings.
• Work with your child’s school to make it more responsive to all students and to all families. Share
  your ideas about how the school can encourage family involvement, welcome all families, and
  include them in meaningful ways in their children’s education.
• Encourage your school to offer before- and after-school programs.
• Volunteer to work with school-based groups concerned with violence prevention. If none exist,
  offer to form one.
• Find out if there is a violence prevention group in your community. Offer to participate in the
  group’s activities.
• Talk with the parents of your child’s friends. Discuss how you can form a team to ensure your
  children’s safety.
• Find out if your employer offers provisions for parents to participate in school activities.
                                 selves or others cannot be              ensure the likelihood that they
                                 placed on waiting lists.                will be implemented effectively.
                               • Make interventions available          • Build upon and coordinate in-
                                 as early as possible. Too fre-          ternal school resources. In de-
                                 quently, interventions are not          veloping and implementing vio-
                                 made available until the stu-           lence prevention and response
                                 dent becomes violent or is ad-          plans, effective schools draw
                                 judicated as a youthful of-             upon the resources of various
                                 fender. Interventions for chil-         school-based programs and
                                 dren who have reached this              staff—such as special educa-
                                 stage are both costly, restrictive,     tion, safe and drug free school
                                 and relatively inefficient. Effec-      programs, pupil services, and
                                 tive schools build mechanisms           Title I.
                                 into their intervention pro-
                                                                       Violent behavior is a problem for
“Our school system has cre-      cesses to ensure that referrals
                                                                       everyone. It is a normal response
ated a student services          are addressed promptly, and
team—including the princi-                                             to become angry or even fright-
                                 that feedback is provided to the
pal, a special educator, the                                           ened in the presence of a violent
                                 referring individual.
school psychologist, other                                             child. But, it is essential that these
behavioral support person-     • Use sustained, multiple, coor-        emotional reactions be controlled.
nel, the child development
specialist, and others—that
                                 dinated interventions. It is rare     The goal must always be to ensure
meets weekly to address          that children are violent or dis-     safety and seek help for the child.
safety and success for all       ruptive only in school. Thus,
students. Our teachers and       interventions that are most suc-
families have easy access to                                           Intervening Early
                                 cessful are comprehensive, sus-
this team. As part of our                                              with Students Who
                                 tained, and properly imple-
plan, we conduct a campus-                                             Are at Risk for
by-campus risk assessment        mented. They help families and
in coordination with city,       staff work together to help the
county, and state law en-        child. Coordinated efforts draw
forcement agencies. We           resources from community              The incidence of violent acts
provide interventions for
children who are troubled
                                 agencies that are respectful of       against students or staff is low.
and connect them and their       and responsive to the needs of        However, pre-violent behaviors—
families to community            families. Isolated, inconsistent,     such as threats, bullying, and
agencies and mental health       short-term, and fragmented in-        classroom disruptions—are com-
services.”                       terventions will not be success-      mon. Thus, early responses to
Lee Patterson                    ful—and may actually do harm.         warning signs are most effective
Assistant Superintendent
                                                                       in preventing problems from es-
Roseberg, OR                   • Analyze the contexts in which
                                 violent behavior occurs. School
                                 communities can enhance their         Intervention programs that re-
                                 effectiveness by conducting a         duce behavior problems and re-
                                 functional analysis of the fac-       lated school violence typically are
                                 tors that set off violence and        multifaceted, long-term, and
                                 problem behaviors. In deter-          broad reaching. They also are rig-
                                 mining an appropriate course of       orously implemented. Effective
                                 action, consider the child’s age,     early intervention efforts include
                                 cultural background, and fam-         working with small groups or in-
                                 ily experiences and values. De-       dividual students to provide direct
                                 cisions about interventions           support, as well as linking chil-
                                 should be measured against a          dren and their families to neces-
                                 standard of reasonableness to         sary community services and/or


                    Action Steps for Students

There is much students can do to help create safe schools. Talk to your teachers,
parents, and counselor to find out how you can get involved and do your part to
make your school safe. Here are some ideas that students in other schools have
• Listen to your friends if they share troubling feelings or thoughts. Encourage them to get help from
  a trusted adult—such as a school psychologist, counselor, social worker, leader from the faith
  community, or other professional. If you are very concerned, seek help for them. Share your
  concerns with your parents.
• Create, join, or support student organizations that combat violence, such as “Students Against
  Destructive Decisions” and “Young Heroes Program.”
• Work with local businesses and community groups to organize youth-oriented activities that help
  young people think of ways to prevent school and community violence. Share your ideas for how
  these community groups and businesses can support your efforts.
• Organize an assembly and invite your school psychologist, school social worker, and counselor—in
  addition to student panelists—to share ideas about how to deal with violence, intimidation, and
• Get involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating your school’s violence prevention and
  response plan.
• Participate in violence prevention programs such as peer mediation and conflict resolution.
  Employ your new skills in other settings, such as the home, neighborhood, and community.
• Work with your teachers and administrators to create a safe process for reporting threats,
  intimidation, weapon possession, drug selling, gang activity, graffiti, and vandalism. Use the
• Ask for permission to invite a law enforcement officer to your school to conduct a safety audit and
  share safety tips, such as traveling in groups and avoiding areas known to be unsafe. Share your
  ideas with the officer.
• Help to develop and participate in activities that promote student understanding of differences and
  that respect the rights of all.
• Volunteer to be a mentor for younger students and/or provide tutoring to your peers.
• Know your school’s code of conduct and model responsible behavior. Avoid being part of a crowd
  when fights break out. Refrain from teasing, bullying, and intimidating peers.
• Be a role model—take personal responsibility by reacting to anger without physically or verbally
  harming others.
• Seek help from your parents or a trusted adult—such as a school psychologist, social worker,
  counselor, teacher—if you are experiencing intense feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, or depression.
                              providing these services in the       tisocial behavior in troubled chil-
                              school.                               dren. In fact, the direct teaching
                                                                    of social problem solving and so-
                              Examples of early intervention
                                                                    cial decision making is now a
                              components that work include:
                                                                    standard feature of most effective
                              • Providing training and support      drug and violence prevention pro-
                                to staff, students, and families    grams. Children who are at risk
                                in understanding factors that       of becoming violent toward them-
                                can set off and/or exacerbate       selves or others need additional
                                aggressive outbursts.               support. They often need to learn
                                                                    interpersonal, problem solving,
                              • Teaching the child alternative,
                                                                    and conflict resolution skills at
                                socially appropriate replace-
                                                                    home and in school. They also
                                ment responses—such as prob-
                                                                    may need more intensive assis-
                                lem solving and anger control
                                                                    tance in learning how to stop and
                                                                    think before they react, and to lis-
                              • Providing skill training, thera-    ten effectively.
                                peutic assistance, and other
                                support to the family through
                                                                    Intervention Tactic:
                                community-based services.
                              • Encouraging the family to make      Comprehensive Services
                                sure that firearms are out of the
                                                                    In some cases, the early interven-
“Since we developed the         child’s immediate reach. Law
high school peer mediation                                          tion may involve getting services
                                enforcement officers can pro-
program, we have seen a                                             to families. The violence preven-
                                vide families with information
decline in physical fights.                                         tion and response team together
We are defusing potentially     about safe firearm storage as
                                                                    with the child and family designs
dangerous situations.”          well as guidelines for address-
                                                                    a comprehensive intervention
                                ing children’s access to and pos-
Terry Davis, School                                                 plan that focuses on reducing ag-
Psychologist, Natick, MA        session of firearms.
                                                                    gressive behaviors and supporting
                              In some cases, more comprehen-        responsible behaviors at school, in
                              sive early interventions are called   the home, and in the community.
                              for to address the needs of           When multiple services are re-
                              troubled children. Focused, coor-     quired there also must be psycho-
                              dinated, proven interventions re-     logical counseling and ongoing
                              duce violent behavior. Following      consultation with classroom
                              are several comprehensive ap-         teachers, school staff, and the
                              proaches that effective schools are   family to ensure intended results
                              using to provide early intervention   occur. All services—including
                              to students who are at risk of be-    community services—must be
                              coming violent toward themselves      coordinated and progress must be
                              or others.                            monitored and evaluated care-
                              Intervention Tactic:
                              Teaching Positive                     Intervention Tactic:
                              Interaction Skills                    Referring the Child for
                                                                    Special Education
                              Although most schools do teach
                              positive social interaction skills
                              indirectly, some have adopted so-     If there is evidence of persistent
                              cial skills programs specifically     problem behavior or poor aca-
                              designed to prevent or reduce an-     demic achievement, it may be ap-
propriate to conduct a formal as-      her family, and appropriate school
sessment to determine if the child     staff should be involved in devel-
is disabled and eligible for special   oping and monitoring the inter-
education and related services         ventions.
under the Individuals with Dis-
                                       Nontraditional schooling in an
abilities Education Act (IDEA).
                                       alternative school or therapeutic
If a multidisciplinary team deter-
                                       facility may be required in severe
mines that the child is eligible for
                                       cases where the safety of students     “Everyone is trained to use
services under the IDEA, an indi-
                                       and staff remains a concern, or        consistent language. We re-
vidualized educational program
                                       when the complexity of the inter-      mind students to stop and
(IEP) should be developed by a                                                think. Students also know
                                       vention plan warrants it. Research
team that includes a parent, a                                                we will always follow
                                       has shown that effective alterna-
regular educator, a special educa-                                            through if they make poor
                                       tive programs can have long-term       behavioral choices. As a re-
tor, an evaluator, a representative
                                       positive results by reducing expul-    sult, we have been able to
of the local school district, the
                                       sions and court referrals. Effective   diffuse violent situations.”
child (if appropriate), and others
                                       alternative programs support stu-      Annette Lambeth
as appropriate. This team will
                                       dents in meeting high academic         Assistant Principal
identify the support necessary to                                             Chester County, PA
                                       and behavioral standards. They
enable the child to learn—includ-
                                       provide anger and impulse control
ing the strategies and support sys-
                                       training, psychological counsel-
tems necessary to address any
                                       ing, effective academic and reme-
behavior that may impede the
                                       dial instruction, and vocational
child’s learning or the learning of
                                       training as appropriate. Such pro-
his or her peers.
                                       grams also make provisions for
                                       active family involvement. More-
                                       over, they offer guidance and staff
                                       support when the child returns to
                                       his or her regular school.
Interventions for
Students with                          Providing a
Severe Behavioral                      Foundation To
Problems                               Prevent and
                                       Reduce Violent
Children who show dangerous                                                   “Appropriate behavior and
                                       Behavior                               respect for others are em-
patterns and a potential for more
                                                                              phasized at all times. How-
serious violence usually require       Schoolwide strategies create a         ever, despite our best ef-
more intensive interventions that      foundation that is more respon-        forts, unfortunate incidents
involve multiple agencies, com-        sive to children in general—one        do occur. When they do, it
munity-based service providers,        that makes interventions for in-       is our responsibility to pro-
and intense family support. By         dividual children more effective       vide appropriate support to
                                                                              meet the needs of every
working with families and com-         and efficient.                         child.”
munity services, schools can com-
                                       Effective and safe schools are         Carol S. Parham,
prehensively and effectively inter-
                                       places where there is strong lead-     Superintendent of Schools
vene.                                                                         Anne Arundel County, MD
                                       ership, caring faculty, parent and
Effective individualized interven-     community involvement—includ-
tions provide a range of services      ing law enforcement officials—
for students. Multiple, intensive,     and student participation in the
focused approaches used over           design of programs and policies.
time can reduce the chances for        Effective and safe schools also are
continued offenses and the poten-      places where prevention and in-
tial for violence. The child, his or   tervention programs are based
                              upon careful assessment of stu-         laws, and use guidelines set by
                              dent problems, where community          the state department of educa-
                              members help set measurable             tion.
                              goals and objectives, where re-
                                                                    • Closing school campuses dur-
                              search-based prevention and in-
                                                                      ing lunch periods.
                              tervention approaches are used,
                              and where evaluations are con-        • Adopting a school policy on
                              ducted regularly to ensure that the     uniforms.
                              programs are meeting stated
                                                                    • Arranging supervision at criti-
                              goals. Effective and safe schools
                                                                      cal times (for example, in hall-
                              are also places where teachers and
                                                                      ways between classes) and hav-
                              staff have access to qualified con-
                                                                      ing a plan to deploy supervisory
                              sultants who can help them ad-
                                                                      staff to areas where incidents
                              dress behavioral and academic
                                                                      are likely to occur.
                              barriers to learning.
                                                                    • Prohibiting students from con-
                              Effective schools ensure that the
                                                                      gregating in areas where they
                              physical environment of the
                                                                      are likely to engage in rule-
                              school is safe, and that schoolwide
                                                                      breaking or intimidating and
                              policies are in place to support
                                                                      aggressive behaviors.
                              responsible behaviors.
“The police are a school’s                                          • Having adults visibly present
greatest community asset                                              throughout the school building.
                              Characteristics of a Safe
when effectively preventing                                           This includes encouraging par-
and responding to school      Physical Environment
                                                                      ents to visit the school.
violence. Building a rela-    Prevention starts by making sure
tionship with law enforce-                                          • Staggering dismissal times and
ment strengthens the          the school campus is a safe and
                                                                      lunch periods.
school’s ability to ensure    caring place. Effective and safe
safety.”                      schools communicate a strong          • Monitoring the surrounding
Gil Kerlikowske               sense of security. Experts suggest      school grounds—including
former Police Commissioner    that school officials can enhance       landscaping, parking lots, and
Buffalo, NY
                              physical safety by:                     bus stops.
                              • Supervising access to the build-    • Coordinating with local police
                                ing and grounds.                      to ensure that there are safe
                                                                      routes to and from school.
                              • Reducing class size and school
                                                                    In addition to targeting areas for
                              • Adjusting scheduling to mini-       increased safety measures,
                                mize time in the hallways or in     schools also should identify safe
                                potentially dangerous loca-         areas where staff and children
                                tions. Traffic flow patterns can    should go in the event of a crisis.
                                be modified to limit potential
                                                                    The physical condition of the
                                for conflicts or altercations.
                                                                    school building also has an impact
                              • Conducting a building safety        on student attitude, behavior, and
                                audit in consultation with          motivation to achieve. Typically,
                                school security personnel and/      there tend to be more incidents of
                                or law enforcement experts.         fighting and violence in school
                                Effective schools adhere to fed-    buildings that are dirty, too cold
                                eral, state, and local nondis-      or too hot, filled with graffiti, in
                                crimination and public safety       need of repair, or unsanitary.

Characteristics of                        consequences that can accom-
Schoolwide Policies that                  modate student differences on
Support Responsible                       a case-by-case basis when nec-
Behavior                                  essary. (If one already exists,
                                          review and modify it if neces-
The opportunities for inappropri-
                                          sary.) Be sure to include a de-
ate behaviors that precipitate vio-
                                          scription of school anti-harass-
lence are greater in a disorderly
                                          ment and anti-violence policies    “Everyone follows the same
and undisciplined school climate.                                            discipline plan. Everyone—
                                          and due process rights.
A growing number of schools are                                              including the lunch room
discovering that the most effective     • Ensure that the cultural values    workers and custodians—
way to reduce suspensions, expul-         and educational goals of the       works as a team. There are
                                                                             always times when children
sions, office referrals, and other        community are reflected in the     forget the rules. But there
similar actions—strategies that do        rules. These values should be      is immediate intervention
not result in making schools              expressed in a statement that      by faculty and staff, and
safer—is to emphasize a proactive         precedes the schoolwide disci-     even other children. The re-
approach to discipline.                   plinary policy.                    sponsibility is on the stu-
Effective schools are implement-        • Include school staff, students,    Anna Allred, Parent
ing schoolwide campaigns that             and families in the develop-       Lakeland, FL
establish high expectations and           ment, discussion, and imple-
provide support for socially appro-       mentation of fair rules. Provide
priate behavior. They reinforce           schoolwide and classroom sup-
positive behavior and highlight           port to implement these rules.
sanctions against aggressive be-          Strategies that have been found
havior. All staff, parents, students,     to support students include
and community members are in-             class discussions, schoolwide
formed about problem behavior,            assemblies, student govern-
what they can do to counteract it,        ment, and participation on dis-
and how they can reinforce and            cipline teams. In addition, peer
reward positive behavior. In turn,        mediation and conflict resolu-
the entire school community               tion have been implemented
makes a commitment to behaving            widely in schools to promote a
responsibly.                              climate of nonviolence.
                                                                             “It is necessary to provide
Effective and safe schools develop      • Be sure consequences are com-      training and support to
and     consistently      enforce         mensurate with the offense,        staff. We have provided
                                                                             inservices on behavior man-
schoolwide rules that are clear,          and that rules are written and     agement systems that are
broad-based, and fair. Rules and          applied in a nondiscriminatory     effective in regular class-
disciplinary procedures are devel-        manner and accommodate cul-        room settings. These in-
oped collaboratively by represen-         tural diversity.                   services have been of great
tatives of the total educational                                             benefit. Numerous schools
                                        • Make sure that if a negative       throughout our district
community. They are communi-                                                 presently use stop and
                                          consequence (such as with-
cated clearly to all parties—but                                             think, conflict resolution,
                                          drawing privileges) is used, it
most important, they are followed                                            and peer mediation.”
                                          is combined with positive strat-
consistently by everyone.                                                    Denise Conrad, Teacher
                                          egies for teaching socially ap-    Toledo, OH
School communities that have              propriate behaviors and with
undertaken schoolwide ap-                 strategies that address any ex-
proaches do the following things:         ternal factors that might have
                                          caused the behavior.
• Develop a schoolwide disciplin-
  ary policy that includes a code       • Include a zero tolerance state-
  of conduct, specific rules and          ment for illegal possession of
       weapons, alcohol, or drugs.       help children eliminate negative
       Provide services and support      behaviors and replace them with
       for students who have been sus-   positive ones. Active sharing of
       pended and/or expelled.           information and a quick, effective
                                         response by the school commu-
     Recognizing the warning signs       nity will ensure that the school is
     and responding with comprehen-      safer and the child is less troubled
     sive interventions allows us to     and can learn.

                                                      Section 5: What To Do

Developing a Prevention
and Response Plan

Effective schools create a violence     build a foundation that is re-
prevention and response plan and        sponsive to all children and
form a team that can ensure it is       enhances the effectiveness of
implemented. They use ap-               interventions.
proaches and strategies based on
                                      • Descriptions of intervention
research about what works.
                                        strategies the school commu-
                                        nity can use to help troubled
Creating the
                                        children. These include early
                                        interventions for students who
Prevention and
                                        are at risk of behavioral prob-
Response Plan
                                        lems, and more intensive, indi-
A sound violence prevention and         vidualized interventions and
response plan reflects the com-         resources for students with se-
mon and the unique needs of edu-        vere behavioral problems or
cators, students, families, and the     mental health needs.
greater community. The plan out-
                                      • A crisis intervention plan that
lines how all individuals in the
                                        includes immediate responses
school community—administra-
                                        for imminent warning signs and
tors, teachers, parents, students,
                                        violent behavior, as well as a
bus drivers, support staff—will be
                                        contingency plan to be used in
prepared to spot the behavioral
                                        the aftermath of a tragedy.
and emotional signs that indicate
a child is troubled, and what they    The plan must be consistent with
will need to do. The plan also de-    federal, state, and local laws. It
tails how school and community        also should have the support of
resources can be used to create       families and the local school
safe environments and to manage       board.
responses to acute threats and
                                      Recommendations in this guide
incidents of violence.
                                      will prove most meaningful when
An effective written plan includes:   the entire school community is
                                      involved in developing and imple-
• Descriptions of the early warn-
                                      menting the plan. In addition, ev-
  ing signs of potentially violent
                                      eryone should be provided with
  behavior and procedures for
                                      relevant training and support on
  identifying children who ex-
                                      a regular basis. Finally, there
  hibit these signs.
                                      should be a clearly delineated
• Descriptions of effective pre-      mechanism for monitoring and
  vention practices the school        assessing violence prevention ef-
  community has undertaken to         forts.

                                 Forming the                             tral office administrator, security
                                 Prevention and                          officer, and youth officer or com-
                                 Response Team                           munity police team member.
                                 It can be helpful to establish a        The core team also should coor-
                                 school-based team to oversee the        dinate with any school advisory
                                 preparation and implementation          boards already in place. For ex-
                                 of the prevention and response          ample, most effective schools have
                                 plan. This does not need to be a        developed an advisory board of
“Our district initiated a        new team; however, a designated         parents and community leaders
safety task force involving      core group should be entrusted          that meets regularly with school
parents, students, teachers,     with this important responsibility.     administrators. While these advi-
support staff, administra-
                                                                         sory groups generally offer advice
tors, and community mem-         The core team should ensure that
bers to enhance our plan for                                             and support, that role can be ex-
                                 every member of the greater
safety and crisis manage-                                                panded to bringing resources re-
                                 school community accepts and
ment. It works.”                                                         lated to violence prevention and
                                 adopts the violence prevention
Richard E. Berry,                                                        intervention into the school.
Superintendent, Houston, TX
                                 and response plan. This buy-in is
                                 essential if all members of the         Consider involving a variety of
                                 school community are expected to        community leaders and parents
                                 feel comfortable sharing concerns       when building the violence pre-
                                 about children who appear               vention and response team:
                                 troubled. Too often, caring indi-
                                                                         • Parent group leaders, such as
                                 viduals remain silent because they
                                                                           PTA officers.
                                 have no way to express their con-
                                 cerns.                                  • Law enforcement personnel.
                                 Typically, the core team includes       • Attorneys, judges, and proba-
                                 the building administrator, gen-          tion officers.
                                 eral and special education teach-
                                 ers, parent(s), and a pupil support     • Clergy and other representa-
                                 services representative (a school         tives of the faith community.
                                 psychologist, social worker, or         • Media representatives.
                                 counselor), school resource of-
                                 ficer, and a safe and drug-free         • Violence prevention group rep-
                                 schools program coordinator. If no        resentatives.
“We need to give attention       school psychologist or mental
to the segment of the popu-                                              • Mental health and child welfare
lation that includes bus         health professional is available to
drivers, secretaries, and caf-   the staff, involve someone from an
eteria workers. They are a       outside mental health agency.           • Physicians and nurses.
very important yet often         Other individuals may be added
overlooked group of people       to the team depending on the task.      • Family agency and family re-
who can provide support to
                                 For example, when undertaking             source center staff.
                                 schoolwide prevention planning,         • Business leaders.
Betty Stockton
School Psychologist              the team might be expanded to
Jonesboro, AR                    include students, representatives       • Recreation, cultural, and arts
                                 of community agencies and orga-           organizations staff.
                                 nizations, the school nurse,            • Youth workers and volunteers.
                                 school board members, and sup-
                                 port staff (secretaries, bus drivers,   • Local officials, including school
                                 and custodians). Similarly, crisis        board members and represen-
                                 response planning can be en-              tatives from special commis-
                                 hanced with the presence of a cen-        sions.


                    Action Planning Checklist

   Prevention-Intervention-Crisis Response

What To Look For—Key Characteristics of Responsive and Safe Schools

Does my school have characteristics that:
__ Are responsive to all children?

What To Look For—Early Warning Signs of Violence

Has my school taken steps to ensure that all staff, students, and families:
__ Understand the principles underlying the identification of early warning signs?
__ Know how to identify and respond to imminent warning signs?
__ Are able to identify early warning signs?

What To Do—Intervention: Getting Help for Troubled Children

Does my school:
__ Understand the principles underlying intervention?
__ Make early intervention available for students at risk of behavioral problems?
__ Provide individualized, intensive interventions for students with severe behavioral problems?
__ Have schoolwide preventive strategies in place that support early intervention?

What To Do—Crisis Response

Does my school:
__ Understand the principles underlying crisis response?
__ Have a procedure for intervening during a crisis to ensure safety?
__ Know how to respond in the aftermath of tragedy?
     • Interest group representatives    and the tasks undertaken by the
       and grass roots community or-     violence prevention and response
       ganization members.               team.
     • College or university faculty.    While we cannot prevent all vio-
                                         lence from occurring, we can do
     • Members of local advisory
                                         much to reduce the likelihood of
                                         its occurrence. Through thought-
     • Other influential community       ful planning and the establish-
       members.                          ment of a school violence preven-
                                         tion and response team, we can
     The school board should autho-      avert many crises and be prepared
     rize and support the formation of   when they do happen.

                                                       Section 6: What To Do

Responding to Crisis

Violence can happen at any time,        situations to responding to a
anywhere. Effective and safe            serious crisis.
schools are well prepared for any
                                      • Reference to district or state
potential crisis or violent act.
                                        procedures. Many states now
Crisis response is an important         have recommended crisis inter-
component of a violence preven-         vention manuals available to
tion and response plan. Two com-        their local education agencies
ponents that should be addressed        and schools.
in that plan are:
                                      • Involvement of community
• Intervening during a crisis to        agencies, including police, fire,
  ensure safety.                        and rescue, as well as hospital,
                                        health, social welfare, and men-
• Responding in the aftermath of
                                        tal health services. The faith
                                        community, juvenile justice,
In addition to establishing a con-      and related family support sys-
tingency plan, effective schools        tems also have been success-
provide adequate preparation for        fully included in such team
their core violence prevention and      plans.
response team. The team not only
                                      • Provision for the core team to
plans what to do when violence
                                        meet regularly to identify po-
strikes, but it also ensures that
                                        tentially troubled or violent stu-
staff and students know how to
                                        dents and situations that may
behave. Students and staff feel
                                        be dangerous.
secure because there is a well-con-
ceived plan and everyone under-       Effective school communities also
stands what to do or whom to ask      have made a point to find out
for instructions.                     about federal, state, and local re-
                                      sources that are available to help
                                      during and after a crisis, and to
Principles                            secure their support and involve-
Underlying Crisis                     ment before a crisis occurs.
As with other interventions, cri-     Intervening During
sis intervention planning is built    a Crisis To Ensure
on a foundation that is safe and      Safety
responsive to children. Crisis
                                      Weapons used in or around
planning should include:
                                      schools, bomb threats or explo-
• Training for teachers and staff     sions, and fights, as well as natu-
  in a range of skills—from deal-     ral disasters, accidents, and sui-
  ing with escalating classroom       cides call for immediate, planned

                           action, and long-term, post-crisis         remind teachers and staff of
                           intervention. Planning for such            their duties.
                           contingencies reduces chaos and
                                                                    • Practice responding to the im-
                           trauma. Thus, the crisis response
                                                                      minent warning signs of vio-
                           part of the plan also must include
                                                                      lence. Make sure all adults in
                           contingency provisions. Such pro-
                                                                      the building have an under-
                           visions may include:
                                                                      standing of what they might do
                           • Evacuation procedures and                to prevent violence (e.g., being
                             other procedures to protect stu-         observant, knowing when to
                             dents and staff from harm. It is         get help, and modeling good
                             critical that schools identify           problem solving, anger manage-
                             safe areas where students and            ment, and/or conflict resolution
                             staff should go in a crisis. It also     skills) and how they can safely
                             is important that schools prac-          support each other.
                             tice having staff and students
                             evacuate the premises in an or-
                                                                    Responding in the
                             derly manner.
                                                                    Aftermath of Crisis
                           • An effective, fool-proof com-
                                                                    Members of the crisis team should
                             munication system. Individuals
                                                                    understand natural stress reac-
                             must have designated roles and
                                                                    tions. They also should be famil-
                             responsibilities to prevent con-
                                                                    iar with how different individuals
“Early intervention and                                             might respond to death and loss,
quick response from our    • A process for securing immedi-         including developmental consid-
school district team re-     ate external support from law          erations, religious beliefs, and cul-
sulted in no one getting
hurt.”                       enforcement officials and other        tural values.
                             relevant community agencies.
Pamela Cain                                                         Effective schools ensure a coordi-
Superintendent             All provisions and procedures            nated community response. Pro-
Wirt County, WV
                           should be monitored and re-              fessionals both within the school
                           viewed regularly by the core team.       district and within the greater
                                                                    community should be involved to
                           Just as staff should understand
                                                                    assist individuals who are at risk
                           and practice fire drill procedures
                                                                    for severe stress reactions.
                           routinely, they should practice re-
                           sponding to the presence of fire-        Schools that have experienced
                           arms and other weapons, severe           tragedy have included the follow-
                           threats of violence, hostage situa-      ing provisions in their response
                           tions, and other acts of terror.         plans:
                           School communities can provide
                                                                    • Help parents understand
                           staff and students with such prac-
                                                                      children’s reactions to vio-
                           tice in the following ways:
                                                                      lence. In the aftermath of trag-
                           • Provide inservice training for           edy, children may experience
                             all faculty and staff to explain         unrealistic fears of the future,
                             the plan and exactly what to do          have difficulty sleeping, become
                             in a crisis. Where appropriate,          physically ill, and be easily dis-
                             include community police,                tracted—to name a few of the
                             youth workers, and other com-            common symptoms.
                             munity members.
                                                                    • Help teachers and other staff
                           • Produce a written manual or              deal with their reactions to the
                             small pamphlet or flip chart to          crisis. Debriefing and grief


                   Crisis Procedure Checklist

A crisis plan must address many complex contingencies. There should be a step-by-
step procedure to use when a crisis occurs. An example follows:

__ Assess life/safety issues immediately.

__ Provide immediate emergency medical care.

__ Call 911 and notify police/rescue first. Call the superintendent second.

__ Convene the crisis team to assess the situation and implement the crisis response procedures.

__ Evaluate available and needed resources.

__ Alert school staff to the situation.

__ Activate the crisis communication procedure and system of verification.

__ Secure all areas.

__ Implement evacuation and other procedures to protect students and staff from harm. Avoid
   dismissing students to unknown care.

__ Adjust the bell schedule to ensure safety during the crisis.

__ Alert persons in charge of various information systems to prevent confusion and misinformation.
   Notify parents.

__ Contact appropriate community agencies and the school district’s public information office, if

__ Implement post-crisis procedures.
       counseling is just as important       and parents to design a plan
       for adults as it is for students.     that makes it easier for victims
                                             and their classmates to adjust.
     • Help students and faculty ad-
       just after the crisis. Provide      • Help students and teachers
       both short-term and long-term         address the return of a previ-
       mental health counseling fol-         ously removed student to the
       lowing a crisis.                      school community. Whether
                                             the student is returning from a
     • Help victims and family mem-          juvenile detention facility or a
       bers of victims re-enter the          mental health facility, schools
       school environment. Often,            need to coordinate with staff
       school friends need guidance in       from that facility to explore how
       how to act. The school commu-         to make the transition as un-
       nity should work with students        eventful as possible.

                                                                            Section 7


Crises involving sudden violence     • Procedures that encourage
in schools are traumatic in large      staff, parents, and students to
measure because they are rare and      share their concerns about chil-
unexpected. Everyone is touched        dren who exhibit early warning
in some way. In the wake of such       signs.
a crisis, members of the school
                                     • Procedures for responding
community are asked—and ask
                                       quickly to concerns about
themselves—what could have
                                       troubled children.
been done to prevent it.
                                     • Adequate support in getting
We know from the research that
                                       help for troubled children.
schools can meet the challenge of                                           “Coordinated school efforts
reducing violence. The school        Everyone who cares about chil-         can help. But the solution
community can be supported           dren cares about ending violence.      does not just rest in the
                                                                            schools. Together we must
through:                             It is time to break the silence that   develop solutions that are
                                     too often characterizes even the       community-wide and coor-
• School board policies that ad-     most well-meaning school com-          dinated, that include
  dress both prevention and in-      munities. Research and expert-         schools, families, courts,
  tervention for troubled children   based information is available for     law enforcement, commu-
  and youth.                                                                nity agencies, representa-
                                     school communities to use in de-       tives of the faith commu-
                                     veloping and strengthening pro-        nity, business, and the
• Schoolwide violence preven-        grams that can prevent crises.         broader community.”
  tion and response plans that
                                     School safety is everyone’s job.       Wilmer Cody, Kentucky
  include the entire school com-                                            Commissioner of Education
  munity in their development        Teachers, administrators, parents,
  and implementation.                community members, and stu-
                                     dents all must commit to meeting
• Training in recognizing the        the challenge of getting help for
  early warning signs of potential   children who show signs of being
  violent behavior.                  troubled.

        Section 8

                              Methodology, Contributors,
                              and Research Support

                              This guide synthesizes an exten-            • David Osher, Project Director,
                              sive knowledge base on violence               American Institutes for Research
                              and violence prevention. It in-             The guide was developed in col-
                              cludes research from a variety of           laboration with Cynthia Warger of
                              disciplines, as well as the experi-         Warger, Eavy and Associates.
                              ence and effective practices of
Also On The Web                                                           Each assertion in the guide is
                              teachers, school psychologists,
• An annotated version of                                                 backed by empirical data and/or
                              counselors, social workers, fam-
  the guide with refer-                                                   expert consensus. Research refer-
                              ily members, youth workers, and
  ences to support each                                                   ences can be found on the
  assertion as well as ref-   youth.
                                                                          project’s Web site at http://
  erences to practical ma-
  terials that can be em-
                              Much of the research found in this          www.air-dc.org/cecp/guide.
  ployed to implement the     guide was funded by federal of-             The guide was conceptualized by
  recommendations it          fices whose senior staff were in-           an interdisciplinary expert panel.
  contains.                   volved in supporting and review-            The writing team, led by Kevin P.
• Additional resources        ing this document. They include:            Dwyer, included members of the
  that can be employed to                                                 expert panel—George Bear,
                              • Office of Special Education Programs,
  implement the recom-
  mendations contained in
                                Office of Special Education and Re-       Norris Haynes, Paul Kingery,
                                habilitative Services, U.S. Department    Howard Knoff, Peter Sheras,
  the guide.
                                of Education.
• Links to other Web sites
                                                                          Russell Skiba, Leslie Skinner, and
                              • Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program,       Betty Stockton—in addition to
  that provide useful and
                                Office of Elementary and Secondary        David Osher and Cynthia Warger.
  usable information.
                                Education, U.S. Department of Edu-
• English and Spanish ver-      cation.                                   The writing team drew upon the
  sions of the guide that                                                 other expert panelists for guid-
                              • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delin-
  can be downloaded for
                                quency Prevention and National Insti-
                                                                          ance and for resources.
                                tute for Justice, U.S. Department of      The first draft was reviewed for
                                Justice.                                  accuracy by the entire expert
                              • National Institute of Mental Health       panel as well as staff from the fed-
                                and Center for Mental Health Ser-         eral agencies. The federal review-
                                vices, U.S. Department of Health and
                                Human Services.
                                                                          ers are listed on the project’s Web
                                                                          site at http://www.air-dc.org/cecp/
                              The guide was produced by the               guide.
                              Center for Effective Collaboration          The second draft was reviewed by
                              and Practice of the American In-            family members, teachers, princi-
                              stitutes for Research in collabora-         pals, and youth, in addition to
                              tion with the National Associa-             leaders of major national associa-
                              tion of School Psychologists. The           tions. The expert panel reviewed
                              project was led by:                         the document again at this stage.
                              • Kevin P. Dwyer, Principal Investigator,   These reviewers are also listed on
                                National Association of School            the project’s Web site at http://
                                Psychologists                             www.air-dc.org/cecp/guide.
                                   Expert Panel Members

      The expert panel included national experts from a variety of disciplines, as well
      as principals, teachers, pupil personnel staff, families, and youth:
J. Randy Alton, Teacher               Beatrix Hamburg, Professor            Scott Poland
Montgomery County, MD                 Cornell Medical Center, NY            Director, Psychological Services
                                                                            Cyprus-Fairbanks ISD
George Bear, Professor                Norris Haynes, Director               Houston, TX
University of Delaware                Yale University Child Study Center
                                                                            Gale Porter, Director
Renee Brimfield, Principal            DJ Ida, Director                      East Baltimore (MD) Mental Health
Montgomery County, MD                 Asian Pacific Development Center         Partnership
Michael Bullis, Professor             Denver, CO
                                                                            Elsa Quiroga, Student
University of Oregon                  Yvonne Johnson, Parent                University of California-Berkeley
Andrea Canter,                        Washington, D.C.                      Michael Rosenberg, Professor
Lead School Psychologist              Gil Kerlikowske, Former Police        John Hopkins University
Minneapolis, MN                          Commissioner                       Mary Schwab-Stone, Associate Professor
Gregory Carter, Teacher               Buffalo, NY                           Yale University Child Study Center
Richmond, VA                          Paul Kingery, Director                Peter Sheras, Associate Director
Deborah Crockett, School              Hamilton Fish National Institute on   Virginia Youth Violence Project
   Psychologist                          School and Community Violence      University of Virginia
Atlanta, GA                           Arlington, VA
                                                                            Russell Skiba, Professor
Scott Decker, Professor               Howard Knoff, Professor               University of Indiana
University of Missouri-St. Louis      University of South Florida           Leslie Skinner, Assistant Professor
Maurice Elias, Professor              Judith Lee Ladd, President            Temple University
Rutgers University, NJ                American School Counselors            Jeff Sprague, Co-Director
Michael J. Furlong,                      Association                        Institute on Violence and Destructive
Associate Professor                   Arlington, VA                             Behavior, University of Oregon
University of CA-Santa Barbara        Brenda Muhammad, Founder              Betty Stockton, School Psychologist
Susan Gorin, Executive Director       Mothers of Murdered Sons &            Jonesboro, AR
National Association of School           Daughters
                                      Atlanta, GA                           Richard Verdugo, Senior Policy Analyst
   Psychologists                                                            National Education Association
Bethesda, MD                          Ron Nelson, Associate Professor       Washington, DC
                                      Arizona State University
Denise Gottfredson, Director                                                Hill Walker, Co-Director
National Center for Justice           Dennis Nowicki, Police Chief          Institute on Violence and Destructive
University of Maryland                Charlotte, NC                            Behavior, University of Oregon

      The following represented federal agencies on the panel:
Renee Bradley                         Tom Hehir                             Donna Ray
U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Justice
Betty Chemers                         Kelly Henderson                       Diane Sondheimer
U.S. Department of Justice            U.S. Department of Education          Center for Mental Health Services
Lou Danielson                         Judith Heumann                        Sara Strizzi
U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Education
Kellie Dressler                       Peter Jensen                          Kevin Sullivan
U.S. Department of Justice            National Institute of Mental Health   U.S. Department of Education
David Frank                           Tim Johnson                           Gerald Tirozzi
U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Justice            U.S. Department of Education
Cathy Girouard                        William Modzeleski                    Joanne Wiggins
U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Education          U.S. Department of Education
Tom V. Hanley                         Juan Ramos                            Clarissa Wittenberg
U.S. Department of Education          National Institute of Mental Health   National Institute of Mental Health

U.S. Department of Education         U.S. Department of Justice           National Institute of Mental Health
http://www.ed.gov/                   http://www.usdoj.gov/                http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

Center for Effective Collaboration   National Association of School       Center for Mental Health Services
  and Practice                         Psychologists                      Knowledge Exchange Network
American Institutes for Research     4340 East West Highway
1000 Thomas Jefferson St., NW        Suite 402                            http://www.mentalhealth.org/index.htm
Suite 400                            Bethesda, MD 20814
Washington, D.C.