When you hear the word “school” or “college” or “university,” you think of a secure learning space for young people destined to shape our future. You think of a safe place for all students, staff, and other personnel. But the keywords here are “safe” and “secure,” where their credibility is getting called into question.
School crime is no longer an uncommon occurrence. If the increasing incidents of school crime reported in the media are any indication, the safety in school has become a cause of concern for the whole community.
As the term suggests, school crime refers to crimes committed within school premises. However, defining it brings certain nuances of its own. For instance, what level of criminal activity would fall in the category? Theft and vandalism? Or violent attacks? Also, who are we counting victims? Students or school personnel? Or outsiders on the premises? Because of the difference in definitions, it is hard to measure the extent and intensity of school crime. However, one thing remains clear: a perpetrator can be anyone. Whether a student, staff, or an outsider, school crime can be committed by any person in the building.
Many schools enforce a zero-discipline policy against students to ensure minimal misbehavior. However, such policies only help strengthen the school to prison pipeline, where students with even minor charges get exposed to the criminal legal system. Involving the police and arresting students can do more harm than good to the students’ growth and development. A better approach would be to reduce police involvement in schools and teach and help the students steer clear of crime instead. To provide alternatives to zero-discipline and threat of arrest policies, we have listed some ways to help prevent crime in schools.
1. Set limits for the students
Clearly define the rules and policies of your school regarding violence, and reiterate them regularly. Students should understand the purpose of such policies and the consequences of not adhering to them. Your school will be more able to maintain discipline amongst the students if they have been made aware of the importance of following rules and the repercussions of not.
Also, ensure consistency when enforcing the rules, for leaving unruly behavior unchecked once or twice can be detrimental to the school’s discipline in the long term. You don’t want to give your students the impression that being out of the line only a few times can leave them off the hook.
2. Offer psychological and counseling services
Children are at school for a considerable amount of time every day, and regular instances of violent behavior can be a warning sign for inner violent tendencies. School counselors and psychologists can intervene in the lives of potentially violent students and help them figure out a way to control their urges. If the school counselors recommend therapy, signing up for it can be crucial for helping such students.
Often, juvenile crime is a cry for help. Several risk factors may lead to a young person committing an offense, including a financial crisis, home discord, and emotional problems. Furthermore, a child’s brain is less developed than an adult’s, so they may not fully understand the gravity of their crime. Hence, instead of punishing first-time offenders, schools and parents can work together and help them through therapy and counseling services.
3. Increase monitoring and supervision in school
Ensure close inspection of student behavior so that no remotely criminal behavior goes unchecked. Monitor every student’s behavior in classrooms, school hallways, cafeterias, and other common areas and give warnings or carry out disciplinary action where necessary.
Aside from monitoring school students, supervision of school staff, guests, and other personnel is also vital to ensure safety. Appoint security guards and install security cameras to gauge suspicious behavior on the school premises, whoever the perpetrator.
4. Teach the importance of resisting peer pressure
Imagine this: all your friends are bragging about the vandalism they committed on school premises. You may find it morally wrong, but they want you to participate the next time they do the same. Perhaps if you find yourself in this situation, you will stand by your principles and refuse.
However, saying no is not always as easy as it seems, especially when your precious friendships are on the line. Everybody wants to feel loved and wanted- to feel like they belong. But if you seek to belong in the wrong crowd, you may be more susceptible to committing criminal infractions by caving into peer pressure.
Therefore, teaching students at school about the harmful effects of peer pressure- of any kind- is important. Peer pressure can lead to irresponsible behavior more often than not, so your students or children should know how to resist it.
5. Develop a plan for school violence prevention and response
Establishing comprehensive crisis management plans will help your school prepare for possible unfortunate incidents. Schools with violence prevention and response plans are better able to identify potential problems before they can happen and manage them accordingly. Having a crisis management personnel and training them for different types and levels of risk will be beneficial for schools to minimize the threat to safety. The violence prevention and response plans can include:
- determining the school’s safety policies
- identifying early signs of potentially violent behavior
- developing a plan for intervening, and
- formulating crisis action and management plans
6. Be a role model
This advice is for everyone- from teachers and school staff to parents at home. Demonstrate how to be socially responsible adults to children for them to follow by example. Many children fall into the spiral of criminal activities because they witnessed such actions or behavior while growing up. Show them how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence or vengeance and manage their destructive behavior. You never know when your model behavior can help another adopt the same.
School to prison pipeline is not the answer to combatting school crimes. Using such measures allows those in positions of power to act on their biases, largely affecting students of color, students with disabilities, or students who identify as LGBTQ. Decreasing extreme punishments for minor infractions and teaching and helping them walk the right way can be much more effective in bringing a change. Children have their whole life ahead of them. Hence, it is never too late to dissuade them from committing crimes.