School violence is a major cause of concern for educational institutions. It not only harms the victim, but the whole school environment. Though grave occurrences like the Ann Maguire incident are rare, teachers do face other forms of violence. According to a survey conducted by UNISON, 53% of teachers and support staff have experienced physical violence at school while 76% witnessed violence in their schools.
Likewise, such incidents can also create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the students. Some forms of violence are less extreme such as slapping, bullying, hitting, etc. while more drastic forms of violence involve weapons and gangs. Irrespective of the nature of the action, incidences of even lower levels of violence can cause physical and emotional trauma.
According to an article in The Telegraph, there has been a massive rise in the number of children found with knives and other offensive weapons in school. So what can schools, and specifically teachers, do to help prevent violence?
How the law empowers teachers
Teachers have a range of controls when it comes to managing student behaviour and discipline. The important ones are –
- The power to discipline students at any time within or outside the school. They can also issue detentions and confiscate inappropriate items.
- The power to use reasonable force to prevent students from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property, or from causing disorder. However, the law prevents the use of reasonable force as a punishment.
- The power to search students or their possessions without consent for prohibited items. These include knives or weapons; alcohol; illegal drugs; stolen items; tobacco and cigarette papers; fireworks and pornographic images. The list also includes any article that teachers reasonably suspect has been or is likely to be used to commit an offence, cause personal injury or damage to property.
How teachers can help prevent acts of violence
UNESCO released Stopping Violence in Schools: A Guide For Teachers in support of its Education For All movement. It examines the scale and impact of violence against students and offers practical suggestions to teachers for preventing any act of violence.
1. Develop an all-inclusive method to tackle violence
School violence is a complex issue which cannot be tackled by teachers alone. It requires the active involvement of parents, students, the school principal, community leaders and so on. Schools must develop a strategy involving these groups to reduce opportunities for violence. You can also teach non-violent conflict resolution. This is crucial for creating a safe school environment.
2. Educate yourself and students on violence prevention and conflict resolution skills
In line with the first point, it is important to learn human rights-based approaches to classroom management, peace education, and peaceful conflict resolution. You could also educate yourself on conflict mediation techniques and teach the same to your students. This will enable them to:
- Identify the cause of their conflict
- View the situation from other students’ perspective
- Decide on options where students involved in violence get a chance to change their ways
- Reach a practical arrangement
3. Make use of positive discipline techniques and methods
When making a list of classroom protocols, remember to frame them in a positive manner by highlighting acceptable ways to behave rather than telling students how not to behave. Make use of positive reinforcement techniques., such as an extra five minutes of play time, an extra credit point or some other small reward for good behaviour.
Similarly, make use of disciplinary measures that are educational rather than punishment. Such measures should focus on the student’s misbehaviour and its impact. Depending on the nature of the misconduct, teachers could make use of disciplinary methods such as:
- Setting aside time after school to discuss misconduct
- Changing students’ seating placement
- Sending notes to parents or making home visits
- Sending the student to the head teacher’s office
4. Build students’ resilience to deal with everyday challenges
It is important to build students’ resilience to everyday stresses and challenges by helping them develop positive relationships with their peers. Why? To reduce the likelihood of a student reacting violently or falling prey to violence. When you provide guidance and encourage constructive behaviour, you provide your students with a positive, alternative way to cope with life’s challenges. This can also be done in a more effective manner by using the help of counsellors.
Involve your students in such initiatives by devising creative role-play situations where they can practice how to cope with stressful or unfamiliar situations.
5. Make a game plan of safe spaces for students
Another way to make this initiative interesting for students is to conduct mapping exercises with them. They could identify which places are the safest and which ones are risky. Depending on these exercises, school staff can be alerted about dark corners, badly-lit areas, toilets and unsupervised stairways where students are at risk of violence. You could also work with other staff members to ensure a safe playground and passageways for students.
Make students your partners in preventing such acts. Get in touch with Securus today to know how you can protect students from online violence.