Sunday, March 2, 2014

How School Counselors Make a Difference in Youth Violence!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

If you watch the news, you do not have to look very far to find reports of violence in our high schools.  In fact, there is even an interactive map of school shootings since 1992 that you can view.

School Shootings Since 1992 in the USA

In this blog, I have included a table where you can find your state and the number of shootings in your state (sorry California, you, maybe lose this one). Looking at the average age of the shooters, 168% of the gunmen were between the ages of 10-19 (upper elementary to high school age students).

So, this tells me that we have a lot of violent young teenagers out there with the heart to harm others. So, besides school shootings, what constitutes school violence?
Shootings by State
AK1 shootings (2 dead)
AL8 shootings (11 dead)
AR3 shootings (9 dead)
AZ5 shootings (8 dead)
CA69 shootings (86 dead)
CO6 shootings (22 dead)
CT4 shootings (29 dead)
DC9 shootings (10 dead)
DE2 shootings (2 dead)
FL21 shootings (21 dead)
GA12 shootings (13 dead)
IA3 shootings (3 dead)
IL19 shootings (25 dead)
IN2 shootings (2 dead)
KS1 shootings (2 dead)
KY4 shootings (12 dead)
MA13 shootings (12 dead)
MD5 shootings (9 dead)
MI16 shootings (19 dead)
MN4 shootings (10 dead)
MO8 shootings (7 dead)
MS4 shootings (4 dead)
MT1 shootings (1 dead)
NC10 shootings (9 dead)
NE2 shootings (2 dead)
NJ6 shootings (11 dead)
NM2 shootings (1 dead)
NV7 shootings (9 dead)
NY8 shootings (7 dead)
OH9 shootings (16 dead)
OK2 shootings (4 dead)
OR2 shootings (2 dead)
SC6 shootings (6 dead)
TN18 shootings (24 dead)
TX29 shootings (17 dead)
UT4 shootings (3 dead)
VA5 shootings (36 dead)
VT1 shootings (4 dead)
WA18 shootings (12 dead)
WI4 shootings (2 dead)
WV2 shootings (4 dead)
WY1 shootings (4 dead)


What is School Violence

The CDC defines school violence as "violence that occurs on school property, on the way to or from school or school sponsored events..."

Violence at school can include:

Dating Violence
Sexual Molestation
Illegal Drug Use
And the list goes on...

How Can Schools Effectively Deal With School Violence?

There are countless ways that schools typically deal with youth violence. These practices include implementing zero tolerance policies like: suspensions, expulsions, metal detectors, and law enforcement presence. Although these are often popular, they have a tendency not to substantially reduce school violence. So, what can schools do to reduce school violence? Could it be that involving students and staff members in the process can make a difference in violence prevention? The Centers for Disease Control seems to believe that no one factor causes school violence; therefore, it is going to take a multiple factors to reduce school violence.

CDC Suggestions

The CDC believes that school violence is everyone's problem and is a major health concern like cancer, diabetes, mental illness, or AIDS.  Since school violence is a public health concern, schools should be focusing on preventing violence before it starts.

Here are some prevention strategies suggested by the CDC:
  • Individual level strategies-these include pro-social activities for students and teaching skills like emotional self awareness,  social skills, empathy, social problem solving, conflict management, and teamwork.
  • Relationship level strategies-improving peer relationships, improving staff-peer relationships, teaching staff to model non-violent behavior, helping teachers with classroom management, helping staff understand students from diverse backgrounds, and increasing parent involvement.
  • Community level strategies-supporting effective classroom management practices, promoting cooperative learning, creating open communication and dialogue with parents, maintaining natural surveillance (cutting high shrubbery from around windows and keeping well marked entrances), and creating a warm and welcoming environment (clean restrooms, displaying student artwork and school's logo or mascot).
  • Societal level strategies-addressing social norms about the acceptability of violence and ensuring that the school promotes strong educational growth for staff and students.
It is my belief that school counselors have a great opportunity to make a difference in their schools in youth violence prevention!  In fact, since next month is Youth Violence Prevention month, you have the opportunity to really shine in your school.  How do you ask?  Let me give you some tips.

Tips from the Idaho School Counselors Association:

  • Create a mentoring program to assist students with academic and peer concerns.
  •  Provide group counseling to students with academic, career, personal-social, or social needs.
  •  Facilitate a program to address the needs of your school (peer mediation, peer listening, peer tutoring, teaching conflict management skills) to extend your reach into the school.
  • Employ restorative practices as an alternative to zero tolerance.

Tips from ASCA:

The American School Counseling Association says that school counselors have a great impact on school violence and should engage in the following activities:

• individual and group counseling 
• advocacy for student safety 
• interventions for students at risk of dropping out or harming self or others
• peer mediation training, conflict resolution programs and anti-bullying programs
• support of student initiated programs such as Students Against Violence Everywhere
• family, faculty and staff education programs 
• facilitation of open communication between students and caring adults
• defusing critical incidents and providing related stress debriefing
• district and school response team plan

Here is  the ASCA Position Statement on School Violence if you need it in writing!

It is my belief that each school counselor should create his or her own personal school violence prevention plan using the CDC and ASCA positions regarding school violence prevention. If you need additional resources or assistance, I have several links below to help you get started.  A great time to start is in April for Youth Violence Prevention Month. These organizations: SAVESADDNational Association of Peer Program ProfessionalsAssociation for Conflict ResolutionStudent Peace Alliance are great places to start to get resources, toolkits, and to start a program like peer mediation.

And now, a Call To ACTION!!!

As a youth advocate, please consider supporting the Youth Promise Act to end zero tolerance policies and promote policies that prevent violence in youth!! This is a great way to fund programs that we, school counselors, implement in our schools.

As promised, here are the additional resources you can browse to find information.  Also, I love to hear what you are doing in your schools to make a difference in youth violence prevention!

Education is the vaccine for violence.
                      Edward James Olmos   


CDC School Violence Fact Sheet
School Violence Stats
Center for Disease Control Prevention Strategies for Schools
CDC Youth Violence Prevention Resources
Do Something Bully Text Campaign
Veto Violence
SAVE Youth Violence Prevention Activities
Broward County Schools Anti-Bullying Secondary Schools Activities
Broward County Schools "Planting the Seeds of Prevention" Curriculum Book
UMASS School Counselor Violence and Crisis Resources
Office of Juvenile Justice
FCCLA: Stop the Violence