Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Using an Invitational Theory of Practice to Create Safe and Successful Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Using an Invitational Theory of Practice to Create Safe and Successful Schools

Article excerpt

This article presents an approach to creating and maintaining safe and successful schools by applying an Invitational Theory of Practice (ITOP; Juhnke & Purkey, 1995; Lehr, 1999; Lehr & Eubanks, 1997; Novak, 2002; Purkey, 2000; Purkey & Novak, 1996; Purkey & Schmidt, 1996; Purkey & Siegel, 2003; Shoffner & Vacc, 1999; Stanley & Purkey, 1994). ITOP is not designed to supplant most other educational or therapeutic strategies that have demonstrated value in creating safe schools. Rather, it adds to and strengthens existing programs by providing a theoretical framework that addresses the total environment and culture of the school. From an ITOP perspective, schools are not likely to be changed through the addition of isolated new programs, policies, or actions that ignore the essential nature of the whole school. School violence programs designed solely to reduce violence without addressing school culture; academic achievement; and existing student, parent, and faculty concerns treat symptoms rather than causes.

Beyond the obvious and pressing need to create and maintain safe schools, there is also the primary responsibility for students' academic achievement. It is possible to create a school where everyone is safe, but such a school would represent more a fortress than a school. ITOP presents a way of creating and maintaining schools that are both safe and conducive to academic success.

SUPPORT FOR CREATING SAFE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS

The findings of numerous research studies (Hazler & Carney, 2000; Hazler, Hoover, & Oliver, 1991; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1999; Nims, 2000) indicate that there is a clear need to improve safety in schools, both for students and for school personnel. A primary concern of parents, students, administrators, and teachers is that they want schools to be safe and successful (Lehr & Martin, 1994; Sautter, 1995). Research studies conducted by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (1999, 2000), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (1999a, 1999b), the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (2000), and the Josephson Institute of Ethics (2000) have indicated that a significant percentage of students and teachers are victims of violence in or around school.

Ibrahim and Tran (2000) noted that an increasing number of children are the victims of school violence. It has been estimated that 15% or more of all grade school children have been victims of bullying by other students, and 4.8 million children in U.S. schools are threatened by other students (Shakeshaft et al., 1995). Nansel et al. (2001) reported that 13% of the children they surveyed at the middle school level had been a bully to other children, 10% were victims of bullies, and 6% had been both the victim and the bully. Hazier et al. (1991) found that bullying behaviors were most common during the middle school years and that 69% of students believed that bullying was not handled well by school personnel. Only 2% of students believed that bullying was handled well by school authorities, while 29% felt it was handled adequately.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (2000) reported that although rates of victimization have decreased from 48 per 1,000 to 43 per 1,000 from 1994 to 1998, 2.7 million children between the ages of 12 and 18 were victims of crimes in and around schools in 1998. These crimes included 253,000 serious crimes, such as rape, sexual harassment, robbery, and aggravated assault.

A Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (2000) survey revealed that 25% of students between Grades 3 and 12 had been victims of serious crimes at school in 1998. In addition, elementary school students were equally at risk of being victimized, as were secondary students. In 1993, Kadel and Follman estimated that about 200,000 students skipped one or more classes a day for fear of being physically harmed. …

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