Making School Safer

Things a Principal can do to promote safe school culture

1. Reward good behavior. Acknowledging students who do the right thing, whether it’s settling an argument without violence or helping another student or apologizing for bumping into someone helps set the tone for the whole school.

2. Establish “zero tolerance” policies for weapons and violence. Spell out penalties in advance. Adopt the motto “If it’s illegal outside school, it’s illegal inside.” Educate students, parents, and staff on policies and penalties. Include a way for students to report anonymously crime-related information that does not expose them to retaliation.

3. Establish a faculty-student-staff committee to develop a Safe School Plan. Invite law enforcement officers to be part of your team. Policies and procedures for both day-to-day operations and crisis handling should cover such subjects as identifying who belongs in the building, avoiding accidents and incidents in corridors and on school grounds, reporting weapons or concerns about them, working in partnership with police, and following up to ensure that troubled students get help.

4. Work with juvenile justice authorities and law enforcement officers on how violence, threats, potentially violent situations, and other crimes will be handled. Meet regularly to review problems and concerns. Develop a memorandum of understanding with law enforcement on access to the school building, reporting of crimes, arrests, and other key issues.

5. Offer training in anger management, stress relief, mediation, and related violence prevention skills to staff and teachers. Help them identify ways to pass these skills along to students. Make sure students are getting training.

6. Involve every group within the school community — faculty,professional staff, custodial staff, students, and others — in setting up solutions to violence. Keep lines of communication open to all kinds of student groups and cliques.

7. Develop ways to make it easier for parents to be involved in the lives of their students. Provide lists of volunteer opportunities; ask parents to organize phone trees; hold events on weekends as well as week nights. Offer child care for younger children.

8. Work with community groups and law enforcement to create safe corridors for travel to and from school; even older students will stay home rather than face a bully or some other threat of violence. Help with efforts to identify and eliminate neighborhood trouble spots.

9. Insist that your faculty and staff treat each other and students the way they want to be treated — with respect, courtesy, and thoughtfulness. Be the chief role model.

10. Develop and sustain a network with health care, mental health, counseling, and social work resources in your community. Make sure that teachers, counselors, coaches, and other adults in the school know how to connect a needy student with available resources.

11. Ensure that students learn violence prevention techniques throughout their school experience. Don’t make it a one-time thing. Infuse the training into an array of subjects.

Things a Teacher can do to promote safe school culture

1. Report to the principal as quickly as possible any threats, signs of or discussions of weapons, signs of gang activity, or other conditions that might invite or encourage violence.

2. Set norms for behavior in your classroom. Refuse to permit violence. Ask students to help set penalties and enforce the rules.

3. Invite parents to talk with you about their children’s progress and any concerns they have. Send home notes celebrating children’s achievements.

4. Learn how to recognize the warning signs that a child might be headed for violence and know how to tap school resources to get appropriate help.

5. Encourage and sponsor student-led anti-violence activities and programs ranging from peer education and mediation to mentoring and training.

6. Offer to serve on a team or committee to develop and implement a Safe School Plan, including how teachers and other school staff should respond in emergencies.

7. Enforce school policies that seek to reduce the risk of violence. Take responsibility for areas outside as well as inside your classroom.

8. Insist that students not resort to name-calling or teasing. Encourage them to demonstrate the respect they expect. Involve them in developing standards of acceptable behavior.

9. Teach with enthusiasm. Students engaged in work that is challenging, informative, and rewarding are less likely to get into trouble.

10. Learn and teach conflict resolution and anger management skills. Help your students practice applying them in everyday life. Discuss them in the context of what you teach.

11. Incorporate discussions on violence and its prevention into the subject matter you teach whenever possible.

12. Encourage students to report crimes or activities that make them suspicious.

Tips for Working Together to Create Safer Schools

Addressing the violence issue is difficult and complex; however, there are ways to create a safer environment in which to learn. Teens can’t do it alone because there needs to be a community-wide effort addressing the issue. They need help from others. But teens can take the lead. Creating a safe place where you can learn and grow depends on a partnership among students, parents, teachers, and other community institutions to prevent school violence. Think about the issues that affect your school, and see how you or a team of people can make a difference in addressing the problem.

Here are some suggestions on how you can involve other students, parents, school staff and others in the community to help create a safe school.


1. Settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons. If your school doesn’t have a conflict mediation program, help start one.

2. Don’t carry knives, or other weapons to school. Tell a school official immediately if you see another student with a knife, or other weapon.

3. Report crimes or suspicious activities to the police, school authorities, or parents.

4. Tell a teacher, parent, or trusted adult if you’re worried about a bully or threats of violence by another student.

5. Learn safe routes for traveling to and from school and stick to them. Know good places to seek help.

6. Help start a mediation program in your school.

7. Get involved in your school’s anti-violence activities—have poster contests against violence, hold anti-drug rallies, volunteer to counsel peers. If there’s no peer counseling program at your school, help start one.


1. If it’s talking straight with your parents about school issues or working with the PTA on holding meetings to educate adults about drugs in your community, parents must be involved in creating a safer school.

2. Encourage parents to

3. Spend time with children; attend the activities they’re involved in.

4. Teach children how to reduce their risks of becoming crime victims.

5. Know where children are, what they are doing, and whom they are with at all times. Set clear rules in advance about acceptable activities.

6. Ask children about what goes on during the school day. Listen to what they say and take their concerns and worries seriously.

7. Help children learn non-violent ways to handle frustration, anger, and conflict.

8. Refuse to allow children to carry guns, knives, or other weapons.

9. Become involved in school activities—PTA, field trips, and helping in class or the lunch room.>

School Staff

1. The school staff including the administration must be behind any effort to create a safer school. Here are a few ideas of how the school can be involved in this effort. School staff and administrators can

2. Evaluate school’s safety objectively. Set targets for improvement. Be honest about crime problems and work toward bettering the situation.

3. Develop consistent disciplinary policies, good security procedures, and response plans for emergencies.

4. Train school personnel in conflict resolution, problem solving, drug prevention, crisis intervention, cultural sensitivity, classroom management, and counseling skills. Make sure they can recognize trouble signs and identify potentially violent students.

5. Encourage students to talk about worries, questions, and fears about what’s going on in their schools, homes, and neighborhoods. Listen carefully to what they say.

6. Take seriously students who make threats— even if it’s in writing.>

7. Take time to talk about violence or frightening experiences that occur at school or in the neighborhood. Discuss the consequences and get students to think about what other choices besides violence might have been available. Get help from trained counselors, if necessary.

8. Work with students, parents, law enforcement, local governments, and community based groups to develop wider-scope crime prevention efforts.

9. Be open to student-led solutions.

Community Partners

1. Look to community partners to enrich and make your school safer.

2. Law enforcement can report on the type of crimes in the surrounding community and suggest ways to make schools safer.

3. Police or organized groups of adults can patrol routes students take to and from school.

4. Community-based groups, religious organizations, and other service groups can provide counseling, extended learning programs, before and after-school activities, and other community crime prevention programs.

5. Local businesses can provide apprenticeship programs, participate in adopt-a-school programs, or serve as mentors to area students.

6. Colleges and universities can offer conflict management courses to teachers or assist school officials in implementing violence prevention curricula.

Take Action

1. Recruit other teens, parents, school staff, police to develop safe school task force.

2. Start a conflict resolution program in your school.

3. Set up a group for teens to share problems and solutions.