Safeguarding Our Schools
Brought to FEN by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
By Amy Eckman
Concern for the educational climate is widespread--and for good reason. If children are afraid of violence, they can't learn, and if teachers are afraid of violence, they can't teach, says Richard Curwin, coauthor of the ASCD book As Tough As Necessary. He emphasizes that school should be a stable environment in which all students feel welcome.
Here are some specific suggestions from As Tough As Necessary:
- Create a school violence action plan. An action plan is paramount to establishing a sense of security for students and staff alike. The knowledge that in the case of a violent incident there will be adults in charge who know what to do is reassuring for everybody. Action plans should include a signal to everyone that a crisis is occurring, the selection of a central command post, and instructions on where to seek shelter.
- Address all rule violations. When teachers ignore "minor" rule violations such as cursing or talking back, some students are tempted to keep pushing the limits of what they can get away with. Punishing every violation stops gradual acceptance of unacceptable behavior. And when children know what teachers will and will not tolerate, predictability is established, resulting in a secure classroom environment.
- Involve students as decision makers and problem solvers. It's easy to forget that students, too, are concerned about violence in their schools. Include students on committees that deal with violence issues. Share proposed solutions with the student body before they become policy. By allowing students to take an active role in violence prevention, educators can alleviate feelings of helplessness and teach students that everyone can and must play a part in creating safe schools.
- Meet with gang leaders. Participation and suggestions from gang members can make or break a violence prevention program. Although rules should be established by school authorities, if gang members are enlisted to help enforce the rules, their leadership skills are focused in a direction that achieves positive results for everyone.
Educators should keep in mind that for any violence prevention program to work, everyone within the learning environment must participate, says Curwin. "When the entire school--from the bus driver to the principal--follows the rules and observes the expected behaviors, schools become what they are supposed to be: laboratories of learning."
Source: Eckman, A. (1998, September). "Safeguarding our Schools". Education Update, 40(6), 7. As Tough as Necessary is available from ASCD.
More on: School Policies and Practices