Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Violence Prevention, Intervention, and Crisis Response

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Violence Prevention, Intervention, and Crisis Response

Article excerpt

Two days after the end of the school year, days that normally would be spent catching up on activities and rest foregone during the year, a group of school employees from a large North Carolina school district met to begin planning for the unthinkable. The unthinkable to them is a "Columbine-like" incident; the task at hand was to plan for the response that might be needed should such a violent incident ever occur.

School counselors comprised the majority of attendees at this meeting. Their specific task over the summer was to outline the roles they as counselors need to fulfill should a violent incident take place. Many individuals in a school, school district, and community have roles to fill should such an incident occur. However, those who are grappling with increased concerns about the violence that invades the school house are increasingly turning to school counselors. Counselors are seen as contributors to the spectrum of effort that defines how school violence is being addressed. Counselors are viewed as vital resources to tap into to prevent violent incidents from happening, to intervene when concerns arise that the potential for violence exists, and to respond when violence occurs.

Understanding School Violence

Before focusing on the increased attention being given to counselors, providing an understanding of what it is they are being asked to address is essential. School violence needs to be understood as more than the Columbine-like incident. School violence is "any behavior that violates a school's educational mission or climate of respect or jeopardizes the intent of the school to be free of aggression against persons or property, drugs, weapons, disruptions, and disorder" (Center for the Prevention of School Violence [CPSV], 2000, p. 2). It exists along a continuum that begins on one end with behaviors such as put downs and trash talking and culminates on the other end with multiple murder incidents.

Although attention to and concerns about school violence have increased in recent years, school violence as reflected by the types of discipline and criminal incidents that are reported and tracked is not on the rise but, in fact, has been at least occurring at somewhat constant rates and has even decreased in some categories. The following statistics illustrate this reality:

Most injuries that occur at school are not the result of violence

Students ages 12 through 18 are more likely to be victims of serious violent crimes away from school than at school

The overall school crime rate between 1993 and 1997 declined, from about 155 school-related crimes for every 1,000 students ages 12 to 18 in 1993, to about 102 such crimes in 1997

Fewer students are carrying weapons and engaging in physical fights on school grounds (U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, 1999).

School Violence Prevention

Resource: School Counselors

Experts consistently emphasize that schools are the safest places children and youth spend time on a dayto-day basis. The odds of a student being killed in an incident such as the ones we have experienced are said to be one in a million (U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, 1999). Yet, even with these odds, concerns are on the increase, and more actions are now being taken to address school violence. For many who are working in this arena, school counselors are perceived as logical resources to access given their training and the roles they ideally fulfill in the schools in which they work. A sampling of recommendations by highlevel task forces across the country reflects how counselors are viewed:

Louisiana's Statewide Safe Schools Task Force requested that specific actions be taken to place higher priority on counseling services (Louisiana Department of Education, 1998)

New York's Task Force on School Violence recommended that school counselors participate in the development of "strategies to involve parents in their children's development and to include parents in counseling sessions to increase communication and foster shared decision-making" (New York Task Force on School Violence, 1999, p. …

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