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  Violence at Your School?
How to Keep
from Being Blindsided

By William Rioux, Ed.D.

You donít have to just wonder and worry about the potential for violence at your childís school. There are ways to proceed, and facts to be gathered that will give you clues.

First of all, connect with other parents. Find out about their level of concern and whether they have information to share. You can do this informally at first. Talk with parents on your block, and the next block. Then see if it makes sense to form a group (four or five people constitute a group) that has safety at school as a major concern. Remember, from a number of standpoints—including strategy and commanding attention—there is strength in numbers.

Next, if you are not already on a speaking relationship with your childís principal, take action to correct that right away. If you already know the principal reasonably well, so much the better.

Now, for the fact gathering. Potentially violent behavior usually leaves indications lying around. When people, school personnel, and parents, express shock and amazement at violent acts in school, it is often because they were looking past or through advanced indicators that could have served as reasonable alerts that all was not well. With other parents and in cooperation with the principal, collect information for possible violence clues that exist in the following categories.

Look for trends or sharp increases in:

  • Growing rates of absenteeism
  • Complaints by your children of problems in the lunchroom, in bathrooms, on the playground
  • An increase in false fire alarms or bomb threats at school
  • Verbal and sometimes physical abuse of teachers
  • Increase in harassment or abuse of students by other students
  • Incidents of thefts and vandalism—rising or changing in character
  • Significant drops in general student achievement
  • Non-student youths or adults hanging around the school building or entering the building unauthorized
  • Groups of students who appear isolated or alienated.
    This is not an issue of the freedom to be different. More to the point are the activities or expressions of such groups that might lead to harmful behavior. This is a sensitive area to monitor, but, based on recent events, it cannot be ignored.

As you gather facts in these areas, you create an agenda for discussion. Calm review and priority setting will lead to decisions about action that can be taken. Being proactive will sharply reduce your chances of being blindsided by tragic events.

Stay close to your children, talk with them and keep lines of communication open. Learn how they see things and what they are worried about. You will gain information and insight that are valuable and different than what you learn from adults. facts and make decisions be. These suggestions are reasonable actions that can bring positive results. Other parents have done it. You can, too.

Would you like to read more on this subject? Please go to our Reviews on school violence for a listing of more articles.