Educators Talk Eliminating Physical Violence In High Schools News2america

Incidents of school crime and bullying are on the decline, according to a new federal report, but high school educators are still working to eliminate physical violence on campus.

High school educators say building a positive culture where everyone respects one another is key to eliminating and preventing physical violence at school.

“That’s a hard thing to do. It’s a constant battle,” says Michael Allison, principal of Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, and president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “It’s something that you teach your staff, it’s something that you teach your students and it’s something that you model as a leader.”

Allison provides a means for peer mediation and conflict resolution at his school, but trying to resolve issues before they happen is a top priority.

Every staff member in the building, whether a principal, teacher or custodian, has a responsibility to build relationships with students, he says, and to report anything that seems amiss to a person in authority who can address the issue.

Strong student-staff relationships can go a long way in creating a positive culture where violence doesn’t occur, he says. He’s found during his years as a principal that teens trust staff members when they know they are there for them and will talk to them if they know something is going on.

Jayne Ellspermann, principal of West Port High School in Ocala, Florida, knows changing the culture of school is a challenge and cannot be done overnight. When she started working at her school 13 years ago, the culture was rough, she says, and the entire school community had to work hard for several years to create an environment where everyone respects one another.

One of the most important things they did was focus on the positive things happening at the school and the great students on campus, she says.

Empowering the students making good decisions and developing positive leadership among the student body helps change the culture of the school, she says. And deliberate, systemic character education made a difference in helping move the students forward, she says.

They made time during the week to infuse character development into the school, she says, and made good use of the handful of guidance counselors available. The guidance counselors created lessons for all the teachers to use to teach students the skills they needed to respect one another.

Sandy Austin, a school counselor at Pomona High School in Arvada, Colorado, says a caring environment at school is the key to combatting violence.

She created the B.I.O.N.I.C. Team program – which stands for Believe It Or Not I Care – when working at a high school more than a decade ago where several students killed themselves in quick succession. The idea was to give students the tools needed to turn the school’s environment into a supportive one, she says.

High school staff working to prevent and eliminate physical violence may want to consider creating a student club like this, she says.

“I think the biggest thing is to keep your eyes open, know your students and recognize changes in behavior,” says Allison, the Pennsylvania principal.

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