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Tackling the issue of school violence

By Jay Li November 17, 2022


Every state in the U.S. requires youth to attend school until their late teens, but the promise of education does not guarantee that the students will be safe. According to Education Week, forms of school violence continue to pervade the nation.


The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, reveals that the traditional method of tightening grips on school policies or increasing the severity of consequences to combat bad behavior is ineffective. Using punishments as a form of control not only lacks the backing of scientific research but also has negative side effects on students.


For example, a formal evaluation by RAND revealed that implementing school-wide weapon searches and using cameras to increase surveillance causes a spike in students’ fear and anxiety, sacrificing their emotional well-being for their physical safety. Additionally, the approach fails to address the underlying causes of why students bring weapons to school in the first place.


“The traditional means of punishment schools use is ineffective because kids do not understand how their misbehavior affects others and is wrong. Students in Castillero would fight a lot, and teachers would obviously intervene, however students wouldn’t understand their actions are wrong. The current system does not address this underlying issue in students.” Sophomore Levin Gong said.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, “positive discipline” or conscious discipline focuses on encouraging young people to improve their behavior, including self-control, social competence and teamwork. It focuses on identifying the underlying motivations behind one’s actions rather than attempting to change surface-level behavior. Endorsed by UNICEF, positive discipline can be employed in the classroom and at home.

Lyn Kang Art

Positive discipline is effective because it engages both students and adults, establishing mutual respect and consistent communication between them. Learning these skills teaches young people how to be responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. Moreover, research from RAND shows that positive discipline is better at deterring misbehavior than traditional methods.


A study of a four-year, school-wide implementation of positive discipline at a lower-income elementary school in Sacramento demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the number of suspensions and vandalism incidents. Teachers who engaged in positive discipline also reported an overall improvement in classroom atmosphere, attitude and academic performance.


“I absolutely support implementing a school-wide positive discipline program. We always encourage our students with the Charge On motto: Community, Honesty, Responsibility, Grit and Empathy. I have observed that when students are encouraged to follow these values by their peers, such as those from ASB, it is often more effective than being told to do so by an adult,” Assistant Principal of Student Services Sara Mingione said.

If an incident does occur, many schools utilize an anonymous reporting system. The Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization aimed to prevent school violence, initiated the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) which allows students to proactively prevent their peers from harming themselves or others. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention on the effects of SS-ARS displayed improvement in both cognitive and behavioral outcomes among sixth grade students and reduced overall school violence.


“We always keep an open door policy, so if something is happening, or if students see or hear something, they can always come to us and we will investigate it,” Mingione said.

If students are affected by school violence, schools provide students with resources to recover. At the school, students can turn to the counselors to seek support, who provide guidance on a variety of topics including challenges in personal life and conflict mediation. A key service they provide is advocating for students’ mental health through instruction, short-term therapy intervention and referrals to community resources for long-term support.


“I would like to see more forms of restorative justice. If students are having a disagreement with each other, I would facilitate a conversation in a safe space to help clear misunderstandings. It is helpful to have an outside perspective with a counselor, teacher, administrator or other school staff to help resolve misunderstanding,” Mingione said.

While traditional methods of deterring violence at school have proven ineffective, new forms of positive discipline are showing potential. Schools may also keep resources on campus such as counselors and support staff to help mediate conflict and improve students’ overall mental health. 37% of teens aged 12 to 17 have been bullied online.

 

About the Contributors

Jay Li

Staff writers


Jay li is a sophomore at Leland High School and a writer for The Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys eating and sleeping.








Lyn Kang

Artist


Lyn Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School and the Community News Investigative Report. During her free time, she enjoys sleeping, eating, and playing with his friends.”

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