School shootings within the United States are an ongoing and national issue without current resolution. The authors seek to address prevention through the possibility of an interprofessional approach that includes school district administrators and parents, students, and community members.
The battle to prevent school shootings
The authors found that all the reports and studies they reviewed were “consistent across time in terms of identifying the threat and general conditions of the events”, but the “primary unknown factor is the actual detection of the threat in the form of the shooter and the shooter’s intentions.” They also highlight the importance of actions and strategies that help detect, disrupt, or prevent school shootings versus just deterring them. For example, schools that take steps to ensure that weapons do not enter campus are still open to vulnerabilities. Furthermore, while the presence of resource officers who conduct active shooter training may deter an attack, it may not help to detect, disrupt, or prevent one.
They expressed risk through the formula R = T V C (where R = risk, T = threat, V = vulnerability, and C = consequences) and concluded that based on the literature review, the threat analysis part of the equation has been largely ignored.
School shooters defined as ‘terrorists’
This paper presents findings and conclusions after a literature review (including reports from government agencies) and an analysis of the current status of the issues in the United States. The operating model suggested by the authors starts with the primary assumption that current, future, and potential school shooters are domestic terrorists. Elevating school shooters to this status would allow federal law enforcement jurisdiction for “investigative and prosecution purposes and provide a nationwide standard of investigation.”
Secondly, the authors suggest that the Presidential Policy Directive 21 and Executive Order 13636 of February 13, 2013 be adjusted to add schools as a new critical infrastructure sector. This would allow for a new “office” to be created that would specifically deal with schools and their security issues for the Department of Education.
Thirdly, fusion centers could play a part in preventing attacks. Fusion centers “are state and local areas for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information among SLTT [state, local, tribal, and territorial] partners such as frontline law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, critical infrastructure protection, and private sector security personnel.” Facilitating information sharing in this way can help enforcement officials prevent, protect against, and respond to crime and terrorism, especially given that in all reviewed cases in the literature review the authors found that the “shooter or shooters had communicated the intention of committing these acts, which has been increasingly done via social media among other forms of communication.”
Lastly, any prevention model must “involve school administrators, school faculty, school district administrators, students, and parents as part of the total community.”
Overall, it is “important to recognize that it takes an interprofessional collaboration among educators, law enforcement, and public health practitioners in order to prevent school shootings.”
‘Not our school’ Syndrome
“The “not our school” syndrome has been identified as a contributing factor to a school shooting occurring by not being detected in time to deter, disrupt, or prevent.” In order to truly prevent school shootings, significant social change must occur and actions need to be implemented at every level. “Every recommendation must clearly and fully involve students and their parents, faculty, school administrators at school and district levels, law enforcement, and health care professionals at the local, state, and federal levels.” In addition, “see something, say something” must also apply more broadly and include student’s social settings and social media.
“Students and parents are the most critical part of the detection and therefore prevention in any discussion involving school safety.”
To detect, deter, disrupt, or prevent school shootings, change must occur at every level. This sounds like a monumental task but it also means that we all have our parts to play when ensuring the safety of our school communities. Not only can we help to identify risks in these settings we can help ensure that our students get the support they need. While policy and security fixes may never be perfect, as someone who is interacting with students daily I can see the direct impact we can have on the lives of our youth. Educators can help to build a strong, supportive, and cohesive school environment that allows students to feel safe to talk to each other and to staff. They can also help to build those necessary relationships among and between colleagues, students, parents/guardians, and community members.
Alonge, H. C., & Craig, C. P. (2020). Preventing school shootings: The interprofessional and community approach to prevention. Journal of Social Change, 12, 32–39. https://doi.org/10.5590/JOSC.2020.12.1.04
School-based violence towards students with disabilities in Zambia is perpetuated by fellow students and teachers. This study examines the reasons teachers are reluctant to deal with stigmatized violence, while emphasizing that special educators have been advocating for and promoting ways to prevent this violence. Some solutions offered are clear governmental policies with enforcement, teacher training and professional development, anonymous reporting, and developing an anti-violence intervention program. —Tanya Farrol
School Violence in Zambia
An estimated 246 million children experience violence in school every year, which is approximately 1 in 4 students.1 In Zambia, 63% of students are bullied by their peers, and 97% receive corporal punishments from their teachers.2 School violence affects student participation and performance at school and leads to students dropping out. This then leads to unemployment or receiving lower wages due to a lack of education. The violence even impacts their own children, as children exposed to violence are more likely to perpetrate violence against their future children.3
School violence is found to be greater for those students with disabilities than their non-disabled peers due to stigma related factors like stereotypes and prejudice. In high-income countries, “children with disabilities experience violence four times more frequently than non-disabled children.”4 However, not many studies have looked at the prevalence of school based violence towards children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries. This study aims to provide data in this unexamined area as 85% of children with disabilities live in low and middle-income countries.5 It is believed that “violence against children with disabilities can be expected to be higher in Zambia where there are greater stigmas associated with having a disability, fewer resources available for families who have children with disabilities, and a wider accepted use of corporal punishment in disciplining children.”6
UNICEF estimates that 4.4% of the children in Zambia have disabilities—a country with an estimated population of 17 million.7 There is a higher rate of disability among the female population and visual impairments are the most common type of disability. Zambia ratified the United Nations’ Rights of the Persons with Disabilities in 2010 and worked to provide inclusive policies in the Education Act 2011.8 Despites these policies, it was found that students with disabilities did not attend or were less likely to be enrolled in schools, especially if they were female or lived in a rural area.
In Zambia, many schools still practice corporal punishment even though it is banned by the government. In 2014, UNICEF found that school violence against children was both physical and sexual, usually perpetrated by people the victim knew, including teachers and peers. However, there is limited research on the “response of teachers to disability-based violence” in Zambia.
Beliefs that Sustain Violence in Schools
One hundred and thirty-five participants took part in the study with 90 students with disabilities, 33 teachers or administrators and 12 parents of the children with disabilities. The students had a variety of disabilities ranging from visual impairments to intellectual impairment. Of the schools, 7 were primary and 2 were secondary.
The violence reported was perpetrated by both students and teachers, with name-calling and bullying by non-disabled students and corporal punishment by teachers. Also, students with disabilities reported being excluded from games by their non-disabled peers.
Shockingly, “teachers most often did not report or address incidents after witnessing or hearing about violence towards students with disabilities no matter the type of severity of the violence.” This can be attributed to the beliefs held by the teacher, including but not limited to the following:
Victim Blaming: Teachers did not believe an incident had occurred because it was in the child’s imagination.
Grow Up As Real Boys: Being bullied is seen as a rite of passage by many teachers for boys to grow up as ‘real boys.’
Brother’s Keeper: Students are expected to care for one another and deal with the school violence themselves. This absolves the teacher from responding and puts the onus on a student with disabilities’ friends to help deal with violence.
Forgiveness: Students with disabilities need to practice the Christian belief of “forgive and forget” when harmed. Many students are taught to not report harm or ask for help.
Lack of Direction: Teachers were not sure of what to do or had little training in child protection. Also, if there were school policies in place, many were not implemented.
How Teachers Responded to Violence
When teachers did respond to violence, they would often punish the perpetrators. Students would be either suspended, expelled, or reported to a higher authority. Teachers who were violent towards their students would be reported to the police if witnessed by another teacher or administration.
However, some teachers responded to the violence with preventive or caring actions to support the victims. This was usually the special education teacher, even though they were often discouraged by the administration to respond to violence in schools. It was found that special educators did not have the authority to advocate for better treatment and were often “overruled” by other teachers.
Solutions to Violence in Schools
The main findings of this study were that school is “an unsafe place for students with disabilities in Zambia,” and that much of the “violence goes unaddressed and unreported.” In order to combat school violence, the following were presented as possible solutions by the authors:
Setting up a clear reporting process for all staff to follow in every school. The reporting process needs to be anonymous.
Students with disabilities have less power in dealing with stigmatized school violence and require teachers to intervene and stop instances of violence the first time they occur. This ensures that the violence does not escalate over time.9
Schools need to implement an anti-violence strategy that emphasizes the role of the up-stander.
Schools should build on successful anti-bullying and gender-based school violence intervention programs to include violence towards students with disabilities.
Teacher training programs and professional development need to up-skill teachers on how to deal with school violence. Special educators could take the lead in these professional development sessions.
The government needs to mandate child protection policies with clear procedures for reporting and monitoring the implementation of those policies.
The authors acknowledge that this study might not generalize to all contexts and cultures, but that it does have applications for other resource-limited countries.
Janet Njelesani, Jenny Lai, Cecilia M. Gigante, and Jessica Trelles. ‘Will You Protect Me or Make the Situation Worse?: Teachers’ Responses to School Violence Against Students With Disabilities’. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2021), Vol. 0(0) 1–26.
Summary by: Tanya Farrol – Tanya believes that the MARIO Framework is a personalized learning experience that develops skills and empowers learners to become an integral part of their learning journey.
Academic researcher Janet Njelesani participated in the final version of this summary.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2017). School violence and bullying: Global status report. Unesdoc.unesco.org. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246970/PDF/246970eng.pdf.multi
Fleming, L. C., & Jacobsen, K. H. (2009, November 2). Bullying among middle-school students in low and middle income countries. OUP Academic. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dap046
Pereznieto, P., Harper, C., Clench, B., Coarasa, J., & Unterhalter, E. (2010). The economic impact of school violence: A report for plan international. Overseas Development Institute. https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/pdf/3847.pdf
Jones, L., Bellis, M., Wood, S., Hughes, K., McCoy, E., Eckley, L., Bates, G., Mikton, C., Shakespeare, T., & Officer, A. (2012). [PDF] prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies: Semantic scholar. Lancet, 380 (9845), 899-907. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60692-8.
Maulik, P. K., & Darmstadt, G. L. (2007, July 1). Childhood disability in low- and middle-income countries: Overview of screening, prevention, services, legislation, and Epidemiology. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2007-0043B
Stoltenborgh, M., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Van Ijzendoorn, M.H., & Alink, L.R. (2013). Cultural-geographical differences in the occurrence of child physical abuse? A meta-analysis of global prevalence. International Journal of Psychology, 48(2), 81-94. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207594.2012.697165
UNICEF. (2016). Zambia National Disability Survey (2015). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/zambia/reports/zambia-national-disability-survey-2015
UNICEF. (2016). Zambia National Disability Survey (2015). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/zambia/reports/zambia-national-disability-survey-2015
Yoon, J., Sulkowski, M. L., & Bauman, S. A. (2016). Teachers’ responses to bullying incidents: Effects of teacher characteristics and contexts. Journal of School Violence, 15(1), 91-113. https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2014.963592