In recent months, several of our school partners have experienced verbal threats of violence and have had to put these crisis response protocols to the test. Thankfully, in each instance, no actual incidents of violence occurred, and the threats were deemed to lack credibility. In each instance, schools were able to successfully identify areas of concern and respond promptly to ensure the safety of their communities.
Partnering with schools through these incidents has led me to consider: What is it that Unconditional Education brings to the conversation on school safety?
Building upon the foundation of Unconditional Care, Unconditional Education emphasizes the important role relationship and connection play in the process of growth and learning. It has become commonly accepted that students must experience a relative sense of security in order to attend to the processes required for academic learning. However, what is further emerging is an understanding of how strong relationship in and of themselves contribute to a culture of safety.
While many schools across the country have installed metal detectors, security cameras and in some cases uniformed or even armed guards, there is no conclusive evidence that these measures work to prevent school violence. And in some cases, they may exacerbate troubling patterns of identification of perpetrators fueled by implicit bias.
A 2001 Safe Schools Initiative study conducted jointly by the United States Secret Service and Department of Education shed light on what we do know about incidents of youth violence, particularly mass violence, in the school setting with these 10 key findings:
- Incidents of targeted violence at school are rarely sudden, impulsive acts.
- Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack.
- Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.
- There is no accurate or useful "profile" of students who engage in targeted school violence.
- Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help.
- Most attackers were known to have difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Many had considered or attempted suicide.
- Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.
- Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.
- In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity.
- Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.
Have a safe and happy school year!