School violence is any action or event likely to cause physical or psychological harm to a student or staff member. Such behaviours and actions make a person feel unsafe at school, inhibit development and learning and affect the overall school environment.
School violence can include:
- Abuse (physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, financial or spiritual)
- Bullying (including social media and cyberbullying)
- Drug use
- Graffiti and vandalism
- Harassment or stalking
- Robbery and theft
- Use of weapons or threats
School Violence Warning Signs
Violence in school often stems from:
- Social media rumours and bullying; and
- An individual being singled out and targeted by bullies. The victim is usually aware that the bully or bullies are going to make a point of pushing, shoving or otherwise acting in a violent manner toward them.
In either case, if the violence can be predicted, it can be prevented. Early reporting of school violence to staff and administration is essential in putting an end to it.
What Schools Are Doing to Prevent Violence
Random acts of violence in schools are uncommon. Usually there is a history or series of events that precedes a violent act.
All school boards and schools have policies and procedures on student conduct and behaviour which deal directly with school safety and security. They are highlighted in the individual schools' student handbooks and can be found on the schools' website.
Policies also outline visible school identification, secured doors, fire drills and lockdown drills.
Educating students and parents, and counselling them on school expectations and potential discipline, plays a significant role in deterring school violence. Staff members at all levels are expected to respond firmly and decisively to behaviour that causes or threatens harm to persons or property. School Resource Officers (SRO) are available to students and staff for individual or group discussions on the topics of school safety, security and violence.
A school lockdown is a procedure initiated when school officials believe that there is a credible threat to student and staff safety. Lockdowns are used to protect students from school shooters, bomb threats, and other forms of violence, but they can also be used when police are engaged in an operation nearby, or when a natural disaster has been declared.
When a lockdown is ordered, people are instructed to stay inside their classrooms and lock the doors to prevent people from entering. Windows must be shut, locked and covered with blinds to obscure visibility. People are encouraged to stay away from doors and windows. The goal of a school lockdown is to keep students and staff safe. It is important to comply with the lockdown for safety reasons.
The SRO assigned to the school will arrange, on average, two lockdown drills per year. The first will be an "announced lockdown". All school staff will be prepared for the lockdown, as they have been advised a drill will be occurring. When the announcement: "lockdown, lockdown, lockdown" is made over the intercom, students and staff will follow protocol by locking all doors, staying in their classrooms away from the door, and remaining quiet until the “All Clear” announcement is made.
The second lockdown will ideally be unannounced. The same protocol is followed, with the exception of notifying all school staff. The only staff aware of the lockdown is the administration as they will initiate the drill.