Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.
In a 2011 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 33 percent of high school students reported being involved in a physical fight in the last year. Once a fight is in progress, schools have specific protocols for how teachers or other adults should intervene. One of the key ways to reduce physical violence in schools is to prevent violence before it starts. Here are some tips for schools on preventing physical violence and fights.
Teach Students How to Resolve Conflict
A preventative way to address physical fights and violence is to explicitly teach and model to students how to respond to conflict. Teach students age-appropriate, nonviolent solutions to responding to problems. Provide students with scenarios to act out, and give them the opportunity to model how to positively respond to conflict situations. Free Spirit Publishing offers tons of great resources for teaching students to respond effectively to conflicts.
Model and Reinforce Positive Behavior
Students need positive examples of what the school expectations are through modeling and reinforcement. A School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) program can give your school staff and students a framework for creating a climate where positive behavior is encouraged and rewarded. An effective SWPBIS program can reduce discipline referrals and incidents of violence. If a school-wide positive behavior support program does not exist at your school, consider starting one. To find out more about starting or maintaining a SWPBIS program, visit the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports OSEP Technical Assistance Center website.
Watch for Warning Signs
Students often display signs of violent behavior before physical aggression toward a peer or staff member occurs. Be on the lookout for the following early warning signs of violent behaviors outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive feelings of isolation and being alone
- Excessive feelings of rejection
- Being a victim of violence
- Feelings of being persecuted
- Low school interest and poor academic performance
- Expression of violence in writings and drawings
- Uncontrolled anger
- Patterns of impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, and bullying behaviors
- History of discipline problems
- History of violent and aggressive behavior
- Intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes
- Use of drugs and alcohol
- Affiliation with gangs
- Inappropriate access to firearms
- Serious threats of violence
If you notice a student displaying any of the behaviors listed, that student may benefit from additional services to address the behaviors through a SWPBIS, a referral to a Student Assistance Program (SAP), or through outside counseling.
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