School violence has become increasingly widespread and is not limited to a certain demographic. It does seem to be, however, more prevalent at larger schools with middle school-aged kids targeted the most. School violence is not limited to physical violence and includes verbal abuse, psychological violence, and sexual violence. Violence is often student-on-student and, in some cases, can be student-on-staff. In both cases, violence at school can put everyone at risk. Schools and education facilities are responsible for keeping staff and students safe.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, nearly 9% of high school students have been in a physical fight on school property, and 6% have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
Preventions is the most effective way to avoid violent scenarios and potential injuries. If staff can identify signs of psychological violence or bullying early on, they can likely reduce the possibility of physical violence. Some ways to help prevent classroom violence is by:
- Empowering staff to be more than just staff – encourage them to be open to student concerns
- NOT allowing inappropriate talk or bullying
- Promoting/creating anti-bullying student organizations
- Involving parents
- Encouraging “see something, say something” policies
- Identifying and addressing warning signs, such as:
- Sudden lack of interest in friends or activities
- Depression and mood swings
- Writing that shows despair and isolation
- Lack of anger management skills
- Talking about death or bringing weapons to school
- Violence towards animals
- Train staff on how to de-escalate potentially violent situations.
- Have trained security personnel available to break up fights and altercations.
An active shooter scenario is one of the most terrifying for any administrator, teacher, staffer, or student. Sadly, active shooter events are far too common, and schools have been a familiar place for these types of terror. Although there is no perfect way to react in these situations, it is always best to have a plan and practice the plan. Ready.gov recommends the “Run. Hide. Fight.” response outlined below.
- Provide active shooter training for faculty and staff.
- If you see something, say something right away to the authorities.
- Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and register your contact information with any work-sponsored alert system.
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Create a plan with your staff that follows local administrations and that addresses your school’s specific needs.
- Wherever you go inside the school, look for the two nearest exits, have an escape path in mind, and identify places you could hide, if necessary.
- Plan for individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs.
During an Active Shooter Situation…
RUN and escape, if possible
- Getting away from a shooter(s) is the top priority.
- Leave your belongings behind and get away.
- Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
- Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where an active shooter may be.
- Call 911 when you are safe and describe the shooter, location, and weapons.
HIDE if escape is not possible.
- Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet.
- Silence all electronic devices and make sure they will not vibrate.
- Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off lights.
- Do not hide in groups. Spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter.
- Try to silently communicate with the police. Use texting or social media to tag your location or put a sign in a window.
- Remain in place until law enforcement gives you the all-clear.
- Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
FIGHT as an absolute last resort.
- Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter.
- Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc.
- Intend to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.
- Throw items and improvise weapons to distract and disarm the shooter.
- Multiple people should attack from multiple angles.
Following an Active Shooter Situation…
- Keep hands visible and empty.
- Know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the incident and they may have to pass injured people along the way.
- Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
- Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
- Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they come from unless otherwise instructed.
- Take care of yourself first and then you may be able to help the wounded before first responders arrive.
- If the injured are in immediate danger, help get them to safety.
- While you wait for first responders to arrive, provide first aid if needed. Apply direct pressure to wounded areas and use tourniquets if you have been trained to do so.
- Turn wounded people onto their sides, if they are unconscious, and keep them warm.
- Consider seeking professional help for you and your family to cope with the long-term effects of the trauma.