Academic journal article Childhood Education

Safety and Children: How Schools Can Help

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Safety and Children: How Schools Can Help

Article excerpt

The safety of America's children and youth can no longer be taken for granted. Drugs, alcohol, AIDS and violence threaten young people daily. The incidence of child abuse and neglect has reached epidemic proportions. The increase in substance abuse, the breakdown of the family, the growing poverty rate and other social issues expose children and youth to myriad risks.

As the problems facing our nation's youth escalate, so does the need for a unified response. Although a sound education is one of the best protections that children can have, the social and physical needs of children and youth have grown so large it is counterproductive to focus solely upon academic needs. This article explores the roles schools can play in providing direction, guidance and support of a broader nature.

Violence in the Schools

Problems of violence and crime are becoming commonplace in American schools. "Over half of all violent crimes against teenagers . . . occur in school buildings, on school property, or on the streets" (National Crime Prevention Council, 1993). According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the estimated number of robbery or violent crime incidents on or near school grounds is 3 million per school year. Increasing numbers of children fear the trip to and from school and avoid specific places at school out of fear of an attack (National Crime Prevention Council, 1993).

The issue of violence in schools is extremely complex and concern over its impact is growing. President Clinton has submitted to Congress the Safe Schools Act of 1993, which would be the first federal program to direct funds to local school districts for the purpose of making schools safer. U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, announcing transmission of this bill, noted that "All our efforts to raise the standard of American education will be to no avail unless we provide children with a safe and disciplined environment that is conducive to learning" (Riley, 1993).

The Department of Education issued a study, Reaching the Goals: Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools, that stresses the importance of "simultaneous attention to curriculum and instruction, school organization and governance, and relationships inside and outside the school" (U.S. Department of Education, 1993). The study strongly recommends a comprehensive approach involving parents, community and school that addresses the "multiple risk factors [facing students] and seeks to build protection against them," DOE also suggests that an "ethic of caring that guides staff-student relationships" and "teacher involvement beyond the classroom" can be helpful in creating safety in the schools.

Organizations across the U.S. have published excellent materials that offer suggestions and guidelines for preventing violence in the schools, as well as programs that can be incorporated into the curriculum. Numerous programs and national models exist that actively involve young people themselves in the fight against crime. Teens, Crime and the Community (TCC) is one such program. Launched by the National Crime Prevention Council, TCC educates young people about crime and involves them in specific projects to make their schools and communities safer (National Crime Prevention Council, 1993). The program has been implemented in more than 500 schools in 40 states, involving more than 400,000 youths.

TIPS, a dual acronym for Teaching Individuals Positive Solutions, Teaching Individuals Protective Strategies, is a national program designed to teach K-8 students positive conflict resolution and crime prevention strategies, and to promote responsible behavior (Education Information and Resource Center, 1989). The program can be blended easily into the school curriculum and includes teacher training.

School administrators, following the lead of such programs, are training students to recognize and protect themselves from potentially violent situations. They offer courses in conflict resolution and mediation skills. …

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