Our schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence. Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved, but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community. School violence arises from a layering of causes and risk factors that include (but are not limited to) access to weapons, media violence, cyber abuse, the impact of school, community, family environments, personal alienation, and more. School violence involves physical violence, including student-on-student fighting and corporal punishment; psychological violence, including verbal abuse; sexual violence, including rape and sexual harassment; bullying, including cyberbullying; and weapons in school.
Things you can do to prevent violence in your school
• Keeping the lines of communication open with your children and teens is an important step to keeping involved in their schoolwork, friends, and activities.
• Ask open-ended questions and use phrases such as “tell me more” and “what do you think?” Phrases like these show your children that you are listening and that you want to hear more about their opinions, ideas, and how they view the world.
• Start important discussions with your children — about violence, smoking, drugs, sex, drinking, and death—even if the topics are difficult or embarrassing. Don’t wait for your children or teens to come to you.
• Knowing what normal behavior is for your son or daughter can help you recognize even small changes in behavior and give you an early warning that something is troubling your child.
• Sudden changes — from subtle to dramatic — should alert parents to potential problems. These could include withdrawal from friends, decline in grades, abruptly quitting sports or clubs the child had previously enjoyed, sleep disruptions, eating problems, evasiveness, lying, and chronic physical complaints (stomachache or headaches).
Rules and limits
• Children need clearly defined rules and limits set for them so that they know what is expected of them and the consequences for not complying. When setting family rules and limits, be sure children understand the purpose behind the rules and be consistent in enforcing them.
• Discipline is more effective if children have been involved in establishing the rules and, oftentimes, in deciding the consequences. Remember to be fair and flexible — as your children grow older, they become ready for expanded rights and changes in rules and limits.
• Show your children through your actions how to adhere to rules and regulations, be responsible, have empathy toward others, control anger, and manage stress.
Steve Klingler is a Sidney-Shelby Crime Stoppers board member. Crime Stoppers is a diverse group of individuals working with local law enforcement officials to hand out rewards for information.