School Violence – Yes, There is Hope & What You Can Do to Help

The headlines appear almost  daily – another school shooting.  It strikes fear in the hearts of everyone  you know: parents, grandparents,  and especially the staff,  teachers, and students who must  enter a school every day. 

Now that the school year is  getting started, safety will most  certainly be a major concern.  What should be put in place for  student and staff safety? What is  the best kind of security system?  Some schools are hiring more security  officers, others are creating  training programs for students.  Not only should this advanced  preparation potentially cut down  on harm to students, but it gives  students, teachers, and parents a  feeling of control. A feeling that  something is being done. And yet  our anxieties surrounding this are  warranted and very real.  

New data shows that school  violence is linked not only to  mental health problems, but to  physical health problems and  risk-taking behavior, including  drug and alcohol use. Social exclusion  and low self-esteem are  factors of violence and there is a  connection between being a victim  of bullying or fighting and  school violence.  

Actually, 30% of young people  admit to bullying and 23%  of high-schoolers report being in  a physical fight in the past year.  Students report being threatened  or injured with weapons on  school property and there were 82  school shootings in 2018.  

The Safe Schools Initiative Report  suggests that 71% of school  violence attackers were victims  of bullying; a resounding 87% of  the offenders left evidence that  they were bullied severely.  

Clearly this is troublesome,  but perhaps not as troubling as  it seems. Just 1.2% of all youth  fatalities occur in school. A full  30% of pediatric deaths are suicides  and in several states, the  number of pediatric firearm fatalities  is greater than pediatric motor  vehicle deaths.  

And while we continue to be  inundated with horrific news  stories, there is progress being  made in efforts to prevent school  violence. A heightened awareness  and structured conversation  among parents, teachers, community  partners, and students is  helpful. Not only is there more  awareness but there is a better  understanding of the indicators  leading up to school violence and  possible actions to take to prevent  it.  

As parents we can help:  

  1. If you do choose to keep  firearms at home, ensure that they  are securely locked, that ammunition  is locked and stored separately,  and that children know  weapons are never to be touched  without your express permission  and supervision.  
  2. Take an active role in your  children’s schools. Talk regularly  with teachers and staff.  
  3. Act as role models. Settle  your own conflicts peaceably and  manage anger without violence.  
  4. Listen to and talk with your  children regularly. Find out what  they’re thinking on all kinds of  topics. Create an opportunity for  two-way conversation, which  may mean forgoing judgments.  
  5. Set clear limits on behaviors  in advance. Discuss punishments  and rewards in advance, too; it  teaches self-discipline.  
  6. Communicate clearly on the  violence issue. Explain that you  don’t accept and won’t tolerate  violent behavior. Discuss what  violence is and is not. Answer  questions thoughtfully. Listen to  children’s ideas and concerns.  
  7. Help your children learn how  to examine and find solutions to  problems. Kids who know how to  approach a problem and resolve  it effectively are less likely to be  angry, frustrated, or violent. 
  8. Discourage name-calling  and teasing. These behaviors often  escalate.  
  9. Insist on knowing your children’s  friends, whereabouts, and  activities. It’s your right. Make  your home an inviting and pleasant  place for your children and  their friends; it’s easier to know  what they’re up to when they’re  around.  
  10. Work with other parents  to develop standards for school  related events, acceptable out of  school activities and places, and  required supervision. Support  each other in enforcing these  standards.  
  11. Make it clear that you support  school policies and rules  that help create and sustain a safe  place for all students to learn. 
  12. Join up with other parents,  through JFS workshops, school  activities and neighborhood and  synagogue organized events.  Talk with each other about violence  problems, and concerns  about youth in the community. 

At Jewish Family Services, we make the social, emotional, and  physical well-being of our community  a priority. We work with  our partners on Shalom Park offering  educational workshops  on parenting and mental health.  Through the counseling of parents  and adolescents, we are able  to provide the skills needed for  better outcomes in the home and  school. If you or someone you  now needs help, call us at 704-  364-6594 or go to jfscharlotte.  org.