The Impact of School Violence on School Personnel

Article excerpt

Summarized by Kimberly de De aux, Intern School Psychologist, & Richard Lieberman, NCSP, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

Although relatively rare, school violence can have traumatizing effects not only on students, but on teachers and staff as well. In this article, Daniels, Bradley, and Hays (2007) discussed the effects of school violence on school personnel and made recommendations for treatments that maybe provided by school psychologists after a violent event.

With 21 violent incidents per 1,000 teachers, teachers are 3 times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes at school than are students (7 incidents per 1,000 students). These incidents include theft, rape, robbery, sexual assault, and aggravated and simple assault. In the immediate aftermath of such violence, teachers and administrators have been reported to display symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD) including anxiety, dissociation, numbing, depersonalization, and dissociative amnesia. Long-term effects of such violence include symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as illness, divorce, burnout, and career change.

Based on its review of several survey studies, this article pointed to the need for psychological services for school personnel expo sed to school violence. The review showed that 75% of school districts in one study did not require counseling for teachers who were victims of school violence, and 60% of survey respondents did not voluntarily seek counseling. Neglecting the psychological needs of these teachers led to feelings of abandonment and lack of validation from school administrators. Teachers were expected to care for students' needs without proper training, guidance, or support.

Daniels et al. (2007) made recommendations for immediate, short, and long term care for school personnel who have been victims of school violence, as well as recommendations for therapist self-care for psychologists providing services. Immediate responses include single session crisis counseling consisting of assessing the magnitude of the crisis, managing immediate needs, creating a safe environment as soon as possible, stabilizing and deescalating, mobilizing personal and community resources, and anticipating future difficulties. Within a week or two of the violent event, shortterm responses may include group counseling for school personnel. Long-term interventions may include individual and group counseling. Individual counseling should focus on stabilizing the client's affect, replacing negative with positive coping strategies, highlighting the adaptive aspects of the client's response to the event, identifying and utilizing the client's preexisting strengths, and restoring the client's social and community associations. …