Inclusive school climate stressed as one way to prevent student violence

  • Rachel McDevitt, WITF

(Harrisburg) — As the new school year gets underway, school resource officers and administrators are learning about best practices to prevent student violence.

A recent training for a group in Lancaster County addressed the softer skills around how to assess and prevent threats.

Common characteristics of students who have become violent include feeling disconnected from peers, being bullied, and having easy access to weapons.

Deborah McCoy, Student Assistance Program coordinator at Compass Mark, an addiction prevention organization that also addresses issues of trauma and mental health, led the training and said she believes the key to preventing violence is creating a climate in which students feel like they matter.

“Creating a climate in school where you really endeavor to ensure that each kid has a connection with an adult really is a safety mechanism,” she said.

She added studies into past shootings show that if a school creates such a climate, students may not reach the point where they want to commit an act of violence.

“A number of those kids all said the same thing: if somebody would have asked me, I would have told,” McCoy said.

McCoy said students should look out for their peers and speak up when they feel like something is wrong.

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