Strategy: Training School Personnel in Crime Prevention
Strategy Crime and violence prevention training builds the abilities of school personnel to prevent and respond to incidents in . . .
Crime and violence prevention training builds the abilities of school personnel to prevent and respond to incidents in the school.
Community Problem Addressed
On-campus crime is now a fact of life in many schools. Fifty-five percent of students surveyed in 1994 said they had been the victim of a fight or threat during the previous school year. The National School Boards Association calls this "the epidemic of violence in the school." Schools are also more likely to be burglarized than nearby businesses. Many school districts across the country spend more money to repair the effects of vandalism then they do on the cost of new textbooks. This strategy aims to provide teachers, administrators, and staff the training and skills to prevent and address on-campus crime.
Researchers Patricia Larke of Texas A&M University and Norvella Carter of Illinois State University summarized strategies proven effective when implemented by trained teachers in School Violence: Preparing In-Service Teachers. They note that teachers should be trained in the following skills:
- improving the school climate through after-school activities
- conflict mediation
- recognizing the impact of social influences such as poverty and racism on student behavior
- promoting empathy among students for the concerns of others
- helping students control impulses to react violently when challenged
- teaching students problem-solving skills
- communicating with parents to get them to reinforce lessons from the classroom
- building self-esteem in students through praise and recognition
- using and teaching students to use resources in the community to address their needs.
Successful training programs for school staff also include training in implementing and enforcing school disciplinary and security procedures. Uniform application of these rules establishes a standard of behavior in the school and helps protect students, teachers, and staff.
Teachers, administrators, and other school staff should plan training as a group so that sessions address the concerns of all school personnel and the skills they need to protect themselves and students. Trainers can be private consultants who specialize in crime and violence prevention, or law enforcement specialists.
Schools whose budgets are strained by diminished resources may find it difficult to identify funds to implement this strategy. School administrators can argue for resources if they can compare the investment in training with what the school system spends on responses to crime and violence.
Examples of Success and Results
The Riverhead School District, which serves 1,200 students, including some from Greenport, New York [population 12,000], is in an economically impoverished section of the city. Beginning in 1993, the high school in this district was the scene of increasing incidents of violent and disruptive acts. During the spring of 1993, 25 percent of Riverhead High School's population received an out-of-school suspension for truancy, disorderly conduct, or fighting. In addition, there were suspensions for weapons possession, harassment, menacing, and assault upon teachers and students.
A comprehensive staff training program was developed and implemented in 1994. The mission of this program is to empower staff to become proactive in the process of interdiction, intervention, and prevention of violence. For the vast majority of teachers and administrators, this represented their first introduction to the field. The content for the in-service program has been drawn from the disciplines of education, law enforcement, sociology, and law. This three-part training focuses on awareness, coping with and treating violence in the school, and crisis management or critical incident planning. In addition to the staff training, security guards were hired to supervise the transition places in the school (e.g., halls, lunchroom) where 95 percent of all the school's problems transpired.
Since the program started, there has been a significant reduction in the number of fights in the school, decreasing from four to five fights a week to no reported incidences in a six-month period during 1997. In internal surveys, teachers reported feeling more secure in the school and more willing and able to prevent and diffuse potentially violent situations.
Partnering with local law enforcement, the state division of criminal justice, and the Suffolk County Organization for the Promotion of Education (which delivers the training), the school system pays for the training from the school budget ($3,000 for each training).