Educating kids about school violence begins at home | #schoolsaftey

Violence in schools is an alarming challenge that is impacting the quality of learning. School districts across America have reported various incidents of aggression, including shootings and physical fights on school property and at school-sponsored events, slapping and physically assaulting teachers, threats, sexual violence, sexual harassment, video recording and posting assaults and violent behavior on TickTock and other social media, bullying and cyberbullying, and illegal possession of drugs and weapons.

Maryland has not been spared from such violence and last year reported a rise in incidents of cyberbullying, harassment, intimidation, physical aggression and other behavior threats. I was recently told by a friend who teaches at a public high school that he looked on in horror and almost disbelief at seeing a female student slam the head of another female student into a locker. Parents have expressed concern that students feel unsafe at school, or on their way to and from school. School violence not only disrupts learning but also has a negative impact on students, school staff and families.

There are no simple solutions.  Enacting legislation similar to that recently passed in Tennessee and other states allowing teachers, educators and other staff members to carry concealed handguns on school campuses is not a core solution. Much more is required.

First, there are parental and community roles.  Parents, grandparents, guardians, coaches, the faith-based community and others who are in a position to reach and influence young people must be alerted, informed and educated about school violence. It is the parents and those with influence who must communicate and have conversations with students instilling, inculcating and reminding them of the importance of appropriate behavior, responsibility, moral values, respect for others and appreciating the difference between right and wrong. Those closest to students are in a key position to counsel the students as to the dangers of student violence, and to encourage them to contribute to a school environment that fosters safety and growth of all students.

Second, preventing school violence requires that members of the broad education community pay attention to signs of trauma and distress. Often, a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to address the complex challenges of behavior threats. That said, with the support of additional resources and funding, teachers, counselors, security, social workers, mental health professionals and all staff, should be accorded adequate training as to how to effectively identify, report, investigate and address incidents of school violence.

Third, the students themselves must be held accountable. In the last several years, a number of school districts, including Maryland’s, in an effort to consider the rights of students, have reformed their codes of conduct to enact more progressive policies of student conduct and behavior. This is understandable, particularly in view of the disproportional impact that punishment and discipline have imposed on students of color. Nevertheless, students bent on violence must not develop an attitude that “nothing really will happen to me if I insist on fighting or that there are no consequences if I am caught bringing a weapon to school.”  Educational policymakers must undertake a fresh review of student codes of conduct and, if necessary, revise them to develop a fair, consistent, effective code of conduct to promote school safety and not undermine or handcuff the school officials from imposing appropriate sanctions and punishment for those committing egregious acts of violence in schools.

Alexander Williams Jr. ([email protected]) is a retired judge for Maryland’s U.S. District Court. He is the founder and executive director of the Judge Alexander Williams Jr. Center for Education, Justice and Ethics within the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland. 




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