Violence happens in our schools every day. We just need to recognize it.
When we understand that violence is a continuum of hurtful, abusive behavior from subtle to overt, we realize that our students are suffering emotionally and physically, and that many of them are doing it quietly. Children react to hurtful treatment in different ways: they might act out, stop trying to learn, skip school, become physically or emotionally ill, drop out of school, and hurt themselves and others. If we acknowledge the common and pervasive forms of violence that happen on our watch, we can meet our obligation to give children the protection and support they need to be academically and socially successful.
What do we do about it? The antidote to school violence lies in a comprehensive safe school plan that builds a healthy school climate. This climate embeds in the hearts and minds of our children and our school staff the ideals of empathy, respect, tolerance, and compassion. With such a focus, violence of all kinds is recognized and prohibited. We take it seriously and intervene when students are being ostracized, taunted, teased, bullied, or harassed.
My soon to be released book, The Violence Continuum: Creating a Safe School Climate, will help individual teachers and whole schools define violence in terms of this range of hurtful behaviors, and then it will help them determine how and where their particular school needs to improve students’ experiences.
The resulting intentional effort we make to teach and model positive social skills as the foundation of everyday school life gives our children a safe place to learn. And it also teaches them to be good people in the process.
You can go to the Book: The Violence Continuum page for more information about school violence and how you can change the climate of your school and classroom.