In the United States, more than 7% of high school students have been threatened or injured with a weapon one or more times in 12 months on school property. Bullying, a subset of youth violence, is also very common with one in every five students experiencing it.
Not only does violence in schools make it harder for children to learn, but it also creates a negative atmosphere that impacts their mental health and future relationships. There are solutions to youth violence, though. Read more about what youth violence is and what strategies can impact it.
What Is Youth Violence?
Youth violence is violence that occurs among people who are between the ages of 10 to 29. It can occur between people who are casual acquaintances as well as those who don’t know each other at all. The term “youth violence” covers a wide spectrum of behaviors, including:
- Gang-related violence
- Teen-dating violence
Youth violence is a matter of public health. It impacts entire communities as well as individuals and potentially leads to mental health concerns that leave lasting scars on those involved.
Long-Term Effects of Youth Violence
Youth violence has a serious, lasting impact on everyone involved. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a concern for children and teens who experience traumatic events.
PTSD is a response to a traumatic event, causing symptoms like flashbacks, negative changes in behavior and mood, avoidance behaviors, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
In children younger than six, PTSD can also present with the tendency to re-enact the traumatic event. It’s a debilitating condition that requires professional help.
Substance abuse is another potential long term effect of youth violence. Experiencing traumatic events often leads to mental health concerns that cause stressful symptoms. To deal with these symptoms, many children and teens turn to drugs and alcohol without understanding that substance abuse will only make those symptoms worse.
Youths who experience violence are at a greater risk of perpetrating domestic violence in the future. Younger children can develop reactive attachment disorder, which makes it more difficult for them to build emotional attachments to others. Empathy can also be affected, making it more likely for them to become perpetrators of violence.
Solutions for Youth Violence in Schools
Finding solutions for youth violence in schools is possible, though it takes a systematic approach that involves the entire school. With the right strategies in place, children can feel safer, leading to more positive psychological results that feed into a positive cycle of behaviors.
1. Build a Trusting Environment
One of the most powerful solutions to youth violence is creating a trusting environment throughout the school. This allows children to feel safe about approaching teachers, counselors, or other staff members with their struggles. It also opens the door for children to speak out if they see worrying behavior in classmates.
Building a trusting environment also means providing the right counseling services. These should be freely available for all students, and there should be positive connotations associated with going to see a counselor.
2. Recognize the Warning Signs
Being able to recognize the signs of a child or teen in danger is an essential tool for teachers and school administrators. It encourages connection with the student, offering the support they need. Some of the warning signs to watch for are:
- Social withdrawal
- Being a victim of school violence
- Risk-taking behavior
- Poor academic performance
- Low school interest
- History of discipline problems
Each child is different, however, so recognizing changes in behavior in a child requires building a relationship with them first. The relationship aspect helps teachers, aids, and administrators to notice behavioral issues as they arise.
Learn more about The Benefits of Relationship Building with Students.
3. Improve Attendance
Improving attendance has been shown to reduce the risk of school violence. Children and teens who have better attendance do better in school, receiving fewer disciplinary actions. This helps them build more positive connections with their school as well as the people around them.
To improve attendance, getting parents and other family members involved in education is vital. Provide volunteer opportunities for parents and speak with them to ensure they’re aware of their child’s attendance.
4. Decreasing Bullying
Perhaps the largest risk factor for school violence is a child experiencing bullying. Bullying affects children who are usually already isolated or see themselves as different from the group, further increasing the sense of isolation and making them more likely to turn to violence.
Having an open dialogue about bullying from an early age is important, as it encourages an environment of empathy and understanding, making it easier for those who struggle to fit into groups to feel safe. Encourage students to speak about their emotions and any issues they face.
Turn to Rachel’s Challenge
When looking for solutions to youth violence, it’s essential to focus on creating a positive environment where no one feels excluded. That’s not easy to do, especially in large schools.
Rachel’s Challenge can help. Our programs are dedicated to offering ways of building stronger connections between students, as well as between teachers and students.
Because isolation is one of the biggest causes of youth violence in schools, the response should always be to bring people together and make everyone feel part of a group.
At Rachel’s Challenge, we know each school is unique, so we create programs that fit those unique needs. We provide live programs suitable for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as digital programs that can replace or complement a live program.
Our programs focus on everything from understanding and managing emotions to building positive peer relationships. With our help, your students can get the guidance they need.