What to Do About School Violence
When Your Child Is the Bully
If your child is quick to anger, gets into frequent fights at school, and is often rejected by other children because of the way he acts, you should discuss your concerns with a professional who can suggest ways to curb his violent tendencies.
Kids who behave aggressively may be imitating what they've seen on television. While TV violence may not cause aggression, it certainly doesn't help kids who watch a lot of it. Limit the amount of it your child sees by noting which TV shows are rated V for violence. Find out about the ratings on the movies he wants to see, too.
What Schools Can Do
Find out what steps your school is taking to keep students safe from violence. Many are turning to surveillance cameras, metal detectors, and security guards, but the foundation of a violence-prevention program should be early intervention with troubled students. Here are some questions to ask of school administrators:
- Are staff and students trained to identify early warning signs?
- Is the staff responsive when a student complains about abuse from another student?
- Is action taken swiftly to avoid continuation of the problem?
- Are there interventions, such as referrals to counselors, rather than just punishments for students with behavioral problems?
Training programs in how to spot troubled students should be extended to all staff, not just teachers and administrators. Sometimes it's the bus driver or the cafeteria worker who witnesses kids harassing others.
Involving Students in Problem-Solving
Some elementary schools are adopting programs to deal with bullying on a regular basis. The formats vary but usually involve a regular time in each classroom where students sit in a circle and bring up any situations that bothered them. This helps children understand how what they do affects the feelings of others. The teacher moderates and keeps the discussion from becoming accusatory.
Some middle schools and high schools have created peer mediation programs—sometimes called student court—to help classmates resolve differences. Student volunteers are trained to hold mediations between classmates who are in conflict. If the parties come to an agreement, they can avoid administrator-imposed sanctions.
What Your Community Can Do
The underlying causes of school violence are complex and require multi-faceted approaches. Working with your school administration and parent-teacher association, you can tackle school safety on many fronts by creating a community dialogue. Participants should include law enforcement officials, social workers, volunteer service groups, religious organizations, and social service agencies, among others.
Together you can:
- Create conflict-resolution programs for students.
- Review school discipline policy and enforcement.
- Develop after-school activities so children have adult supervision and positive things to do with their time.
- Pass laws and promote enforcement of provisions to protect children from gun violence at school.
- Provide community mental health resources for children and families in need of them.
More on: Childhood Safety
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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