4 Strategies for Preventing School Violence in K-12 Education

K-12 educators have a mighty responsibility on their hands. Not only is it their duty to teach America’s youth, it’s also their job to guarantee a safe and protected learning environment for all students.

Safety seems like it should be a given in the classroom, but sadly that isn’t always the case. Globally, an estimated 246 million children and adolescents experience violence in and around school every year. It goes without saying that preventing school violence is a cause that virtually anybody can get behind.

But what exactly is school violence? Where does it happen and why? More importantly, what can you do to prevent it? Fortunately, that’s why we’re here: to help you tackle school violence and create a safer learning environment for you and your students.

A closer look at school violence

Before you can start curbing violent behavior, you need to know exactly what you’re up against.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), school violence can be defined as any violent act that occurs in the school setting. Notably, this means it doesn’t necessarily have to happen on school property. Here’s where school violence typically occurs:

  • On school grounds
  • On the way to or from school
  • During a school-sponsored event, such as a field trip
  • On the way to or from a school-sponsored event, such as on a bus

Generally speaking, there are five types of violence that happen throughout school districts:

  1. Bullying and cyberbullying: Bullying occurs when someone seeks to harm, embarrass, or socially damage a fellow student through either verbal or physical harassment. By contrast, cyberbullying is when this happens digitally, such as on social media or over text message.
  2. Fighting: Although the National Center for Education Statistics reports that there are fewer fights today than there used to be, fighting is still a clear example of school violence. Physical altercations and fights can occur for a variety of reasons, but they’re typically an indicator that there is a larger cultural issue plaguing the school, such as drugs, bullying, or gang activity.
  3. Gang violence: It’s not uncommon for students to be recruited into gang activity at an early age. Gangs are often engaged in criminal behavior, including guns and drugs. These behaviors can spill over into the school environment and bring harm to students.
  4. Gunfire: School shootings do happen. K-12 educators are faced with this reality on a regular basis. In 2021, there were at least 202 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, according to Everytown research.
  5. Sexual violence: Incidents of sexual violence are often underreported, but they do happen on school property. According to a Politico report, the prevalence of sexual violence have risen drastically since the 2015-16 school year.

Although 20% of students are bullied on school property, per CDC data, it’s still wise to remember that these acts of violence can happen anywhere adjacent to your school district. That goes for school buses, events, and even your cloud domain.

So, what causes school violence? Answering that question is easier said than done because school violence rarely has a single origin. In reality, a combination of many things might ultimately lead to violent behavior.

According to a study from the National Institute of Justice, the strongest predictors of school violence include:

  1. Delinquent or antisocial behavior
  2. ADHD
  3. Child maltreatment (physical or sexual abuse and parental neglect)
  4. Peer rejection

A separate study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service identifies bullying as being one of the leading motivators behind school violence plots. Per their data, 51% of would-be perpetrators experienced bullying of some kind before planning an attack.

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Is school violence on the rise?

School violence has certainly become a hot topic of conversation in K-12 education — and why shouldn’t it be? After all, it’s a school district’s job to keep students safe at all times.

But what’s driving this renewed interest in school violence? Is violent behavior really on the rise? Let’s take a closer look at the data.

Historical records indicate that violence on school premises has declined overall since 1992. That said, even a single incident of violence on campus is one too many. According to the latest available School Survey on Crime and Safety, 71% of schools reported at least one incident of violent crime in 2017.

Anecdotally, however, violence incidents appear to be happening more frequently. You don’t have to look far into the past to find recent examples. For instance, in October 2021 five teachers of the Rochester City School District in New York were assaulted on school grounds. That news came just days after another teacher of the same district reported a sexual assault on campus.

More recently, the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas has raised awareness about gun violence on school property. And if you consider that incidents of gunfire on school grounds have steadily increased in the past decade, there’s plenty of cause for concern.

Whether or not school violence is on the rise remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. No matter the data, it’s vital to prevent violent behavior by any means necessary.

School violence prevention strategies

Although any prevention strategy is perhaps better than none at all, it’s wise to consider the pros and cons of each. Here are a few common tactics school administrators use to curb violence.

Physical surveillance

  • Pro: Implementing physical deterrence strategies can help you remove weapons, drugs, and other drivers of violent behavior on campus.
  • Con: Physical surveillance requires dedicated officers on staff to stand guard. But more importantly, there’s often too much bias involved. Some groups of students may be more surveilled than others.

Zero-tolerance policies

  • Pro: Students may be intimidated by suspension or expulsion, which may deter them from participating in violent behavior.
  • Con: Zero-tolerance policies don’t necessarily solve the problem. In fact, they may even make matters worse for the student being punished — something that could ultimately lead them down an even darker path.

Social emotional learning (SEL)

  • Pro: SEL can help students learn how to recognize and manage conflict productively rather than resorting to violence. In turn, schools that implement SEL training can reduce bullying and other toxic behaviors that could lead to violent aggression.
  • Con: Critics of SEL argue that despite its benefits, the method may be too vague to be effective.

Cloud monitoring

  • Pro: Monitoring your school’s digital technologies, including cloud domains like Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, can help you identify signs of violence right away. This allows you to rapidly intervene as necessary and provide students the resources they need to get help.
  • Con: If you’re not careful, you risk falling into the same trap as physical surveillance. You need to keep student privacy in mind when monitoring digital activity. The best solution is to identify a cloud monitoring platform that has a commitment to protecting student data.

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Detecting early warning signs of violence in your cloud domain

Of the four school violence prevention strategies outlined above, cloud monitoring is perhaps the one with the greatest potential to benefit your district.

Why? Because students are using the cloud more than ever before. And as your school property, it’s your duty to keep cloud services a safe, peaceful environment for your students and staff members alike. The best way to do that is by monitoring cloud data for signs of school violence.

Whether it be in a Google Chat conversation or a OneDrive folder, cloud apps may be storing indicators that your students are either victims or perpetrators of violent behavior. Here are few of the early warning signs you need to keep tabs on in your cloud environment:

  • Signs of cyberbullying, such as name-calling or teasing
  • Threats of physical violence
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Discussion of violent incidents
  • Exchanging graphically violent content between students

With a noninvasive cloud monitoring solution like ManagedMethods, you can automatically detect safety signals like those listed above — without violating student privacy. As soon as an incident is identified, ManagedMethods can notify a designated safety officer who’ll begin investigating it. Better yet, you can coordinate with school counselors and offer students the right support.

All the while, your students’ privacy is in safe hands. ManagedMethods uses API integrations, which means data never leaves your domain. As an ethical, noninvasive risk detection tool, you can safely put a stop to violence knowing student privacy is never compromised.

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