School Violence and What Constitutes a Safe School?

Students report that clear plastic backpacks, metal detectors and armed guards in school do not make them feel safer.  They feel like prisoners in their own school.  So what does it mean to feel safe in school?  It is easier to say what makes school feel unsafe:   physical abuse and violence, verbal taunting, ridicule, threats, spreading rumors, and humiliation, all of which can now take place more publicly and to a much wider degree, thanks to modern technology.  Cell phones, texting, YouTube and Facebook now allow us to torment each other instantly worldwide.   Most students have been both perpetrator and victim to some degree of these behaviors in the course of their school careers.  So we all are capable of making someone else miserable and know what it feels like to have it done to us.  When students don’t feel safe in the school environment, classroom, lunch room, playground, corridors, restrooms, stairwells, after school waiting for the bus or on the public transportation home, they can’t fully engage in learning.  They are either preoccupied with an earlier incident or thinking about how to avoid a future perceived torment.

Most adults believe that the older the students are the less they need (or want) adult help.  It isn’t true. Even adults have difficulty dealing with bullying and intimidating behavior. Just look at our U.S. Congress.  The older we get the more serious the intimidation can become.  Dealing with bullying in school at every grade level requires adult (particularly parents and teachers) involvement.

How can elementary school children deal with the playground bully?  What happens when children fight back?  Or tell an adult what’s going on?  What happens when they don’t?

My wisdom about the answers to these questions comes […]