Enhance school safety by planning empowering lessons during School Violence Awareness Week the third week in October. Activities with a theme of nonviolence create a positive learning environment and teach students to peacefully resolve differences and show respect for peers. School violence prevention lessons also help students develop critical thinking, communication skills and problem-solving strategies applicable to many situations in life.
Teach Them the Facts of School Violence
Assign middle school and high school students to research facts about school violence. Their research will show that school shootings are rare; however, other forms of school violence are commonplace. For instance, survey data analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics indicated that almost 750,000 students ages 12 to 18 were victims of school violence in 2012. Discuss possible causes and solutions as part of the lesson. Teach kindergarten and elementary school children about school violence by presenting a lesson on personal safety. Explain that hitting, pushing, hair pulling and name calling are forms of violence. Discuss triggers of such behavior. Ask students to brainstorm ways of handling such situations. Stress the importance of promptly reporting verbal or physical abuse.
Teach Anger Management Techniques
Children who have the tools to manage their emotions are better able to cope with upsetting situations, such as bullies taunting them. Plan a lesson around the turtle technique that teaches children to control anger instead of fighting. Students learn to identify angry feelings, retreat into their shell while taking deep breaths, and think calming thoughts. Students come out of their shell when they feel less reactive and ready to consider alternative solutions to the problem. Even preschool children can learn the basic skills. For instance, an adult playing Twiggle the Turtle visits classrooms teaching the turtle technique at the Joseph M. Ferraine Early Childhood Learning Center during School Violence Prevention Week.
Teach Them How to Resolve Conflicts
Get students involved in enhancing the school climate by presenting a lesson on peaceful conflict resolution. Ask students to brainstorm ideas for preventing school violence throughout the year, not just during School Violence Awareness Week. For instance, consider launching a peer mediation program. In addition to helping classmates resolve interpersonal conflicts, peer mediators could sponsor contests with donated prizes for the best student essay or poster on preventing school violence. Students could also take pledges promising to respect one another.
Defuse Tension by Teaching Tolerance
School violence is less likely to occur if the school climate is nurturing and inclusive. Students should feel welcome regardless of differences, such as family income, cultural background or religious beliefs. Introduce a lesson on mutual respect and embracing diversity by pairing students from different backgrounds who don’t know each other very well. Instruct each pair to spend the day together exchanging information about their families, backgrounds and life experience. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project suggests that getting acquainted activities matching students from different cultures can help defuse racially motivated school violence.
- Centers for Disease Control: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Understanding School Violence
- Princeton Public Schools: Johnson Park Elementary School: School Violence Awareness Week
- National Center for Education Statistics: Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013
- Embrace the Future: Emotional Skills
- Joseph M. Ferraine Early Childhood Learning Center: JMFECLC School Violence Prevention Week Activities
- Students Against Violence Everywhere: National Youth Violence Prevention Week
- Teaching Tolerance: Defusing School Violence
- The Township Journal: Celebrating School Violence Awareness Week
- Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images