evidence-based school safety policies (Murphy, 2006). School
leaders are responsible for the outcome of such reform
efforts (Murphy, 2006). Therefore, collaborative efforts that
systematically link academic and behavioral achievement would
be theoretically and pragmatically ideal.
School personnel preparation/training
Using a developmental approach, violence prevention and
intervention strategies should be infused throughout the
curriculum for in-service and pre-service programs for K– 12
teachers — taking into account both student- and teacher-directed violence.
However, teacher candidates should not be frightened
into thinking they will experience violence but should
understand that violence in schools emerges most likely from
a combination of individual, school and community risk
factors. Teachers need to, for example, understand the research
on racism, hate and bias within schools and communities
and be able to identify how their own race, sexual orientation,
gender, ethnicity and class/socioeconomic status influence their
perceptions and behaviors in the classroom.
Teachers also benefit from training on specific prevention
efforts that minimize the probability of violence. Such teacher
preparation programs should offer: (a) child and adolescent
development courses in behavioral, neural and development
principles; (b) classroom management strategies to support
instruction and engagement; (c) material on integrated, three-tiered models of prevention (primary, secondary and tertiary
levels); (d) self-reflection opportunities to explore how their
own ways of interacting with others might promote aggressive
reactions; and (e) community psychology theory and research
that illustrate ecology, person-environment fit, empowerment
and effective strategies at multiple levels.
Through professional development and in-service
programming, teachers could learn strategies to diffuse
conflicts in order to prevent escalation, such as techniques for
interrupting the acting out cycle (Colvin, 2004).
Violence prevention also requires community leaders and
organizers to engage youth in positive activities. When youth
are respected as contributors to their own neighborhood
cultures, practices and belief systems, their sense of personal
value and self-worth may be enhanced. Adolescents who are
involved in local problem solving and decision making tend to
take a healthier perception of responsibility, which may make
them less likely to engage in violent behavior.
Because most school district policymakers are elected or
appointed from the local community, they are strategically
situated to receive firsthand input from the local community
that helps shape school policy according to the particular
needs of local youth. School board members, as well as other
community leaders and organizers, should use their influence
to engage youth in positive activities. Further, community
leaders should build coalitions and institute social networks
that address structural disadvantages — such as poverty,
unemployment and homelessness — through community-
supported initiatives that strengthen the social organization
of the community and improve neighborhood and family
environments (Bennett & Fraser, 2000). More generally,
community economic development, employment programs
and parent training may strengthen communities and reduce
violence among youth.
Psychologists and other researchers play important roles
in collaborating and consulting with community youth-focused organizations, including the YMCA, YWCA, and
Boys and Girls Clubs of America, to provide youth with
positive experiences after school. They can facilitate capacity-building within organizations through education, training
and assistance with grant writing, evaluation and use of
evidence-based best practices. Establishing partnerships
among community-based organizations may also benefit
victimized teachers by creating social support networks,
alliances and a collaborative mission to promote positive
Further, psychologists can promote effective
collaborations between community-based organizations
(such as after-school programs, social services,
neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations) and
schools that have the potential to facilitate an integrative
continuum of behavioral and mental health care (e.g.,
Huang et al., 2005). Partnerships can yield more integrated
efforts that provide prevention, early identification,
intervention and treatment of a wide range of behavioral
and academic problems among youth. The forging of
effective partnerships can also have positive effects on
reshaping behaviors of troubled youth and the overall
school climate (e.g., Massey, Boroughs, & Armstrong, 2007).
Once school-based violence has occurred, stakeholders at
multiple levels may be involved in addressing the problems.
Speedy, effective intervention may prevent further problems.
For example, first responders such as school staff, security,
police, ambulance workers and firefighters need training in
developmental considerations for youth, behavioral principles
and school policies. They should be invited and encouraged to
participate with educators in school-sponsored professional
development. Appropriate responses can increase school safety
and reduce the likelihood of further violent incidents.
Unfortunately, there is little empirical research available
regarding the effectiveness of crisis intervention in schools.
Morrison (2007) examined school-based crisis intervention
and found positive changes from teacher and staff
service delivery components, but not from the students’
perspective. This area of research warrants further