Northwest NEWS

August 9, 1999


Guest Editorial

Warning signs for school violence

by Karen Blaha & Betsy Adams, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory

   A fact sheet put out by the National Resource Center for Safe Schools points out some signs of potential violence by youth to look for, along with a word of caution about how these signs should be interpreted. For example, adults and fellow students must avoid inappropriately labeling or stigmatizing individual students who appear to fit a specific profile.

   Divided into the categories of early warning signs and imminent signs, they are drawn from "Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools," a joint report by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

   Early warning signs generally indicate a need for further analysis by mental health counselors and include:

   Unlike early warning signs, imminent warning signs may indicate that the child is close to posing a threat to self and others. These signs might include:   When a child exhibits imminent warning signs, safety must always be the first consideration. Action should be taken immediately. Parents and schools should inform each other, and intervention by school authorities and possibly law-enforcement officers is needed.

   According to experts, aggression is learned early. But they also say that prevention programs that start early in childhood and go through adolescence have the best chance of success. Such programs promote resiliency factors that protect children from becoming violent as well as making them less vulnerable to the effects of violence.

   Among these factors are supportive relationships with teachers and friends; belief in oneself; a trusting bond with a nurturing adult outside the family; great empathy and support from the mother or mother figure; the ability to find refuge and a sense of self-esteem in hobbies and useful work.

   For a free fact sheet, write Newspaper Column, Public Information Office, NWREL, 101 S.W. Main, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204-3297.