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School Violence: Causes & Prevention

With schools around the country returning to full-time instruction following the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been subsequent reports of increased school violence. Educators have reported breaking up more fights than ever, gun-related incidents are increasing, and faculty are concerned not just about the safety of students, but also their own.

Rachel’s Challenge continues to empower students and educators with the tools and knowledge to handle violence and bullying with effective interventions. In order to reduce and even prevent school violence, the causes must be recognized and addressed.



Youth mental health threats are illuminating a significant need for actionable solutions for students in a post-pandemic world. 

Read our State of Youth Mental Health Report

What Are the Causes of Youth Violence and Bullying?

The CDC describes school violence as violence that occurs on the way to or from school or school events, on school property, or during a school-sponsored event. It can also happen online. Various behaviors are considered to be violent.

Behaviors like pushing, shoving, and verbal bullying can cause emotional as well as physical harm. Other serious forms of violence, such as gang violence and assault (with or without a weapon), may cause even greater physical and mental harm.
There is no single reason why school violence happens. Many times it’s perpetrated by a child who suffers from low self-esteem. Sometimes the bully was once bullied themselves.

School violence can be an expression of frustration or anger due to problems at home or school. It can be a recreation of behavior modeled in the home. Other times, bullying and violence are expressions of attention-seeking or an attempt to feel powerful or in control.


Violence in Our Schools: The Facts

School violence statistics continue to show an alarming trend.

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, most bullying in schools happens in a classroom (42%) or in a hallway or stairwell (43%). Other locations commonly associated with bullying include the school bus, locker rooms, bathrooms, and cafeterias.
  • About 42% of boys and 37% of girls were victims of bullying that involved physical altercations, according to a study done by UNESCO in 2019.
  • Many school-associated crimes remain unreported. Over 800,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 are the victims of school crimes each year, and another 500,000 experience school-associated violence away from school.
  • Over 20% of all students in the U.S. report being bullied, and 41% of those students indicate that they are afraid the bullying will happen again.
  • Cyberbullying is an increasing problem around the world. Children who spend time on YouTube are the most likely to be cyberbullied (79%), followed by Snapchat (69%), TikTok (64%), and Facebook (49%). Two-thirds of cyberbullying victims say that it has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves.
  • The National Association of School Resource Officers reports that from August 1 to October 1, 2021, there were 97 gun-related incidents in schools reported. The same period in 2019 saw 29.
  • In 2022, Everytown for Gun Safety reported 136 instances of gun violence had already taken place during the first half of the school year, which is nearly four times the average for that period the year before.
  • In addition to that, 13% of victims of bullying report they were made fun of, insulted, or called names; 5% were shoved, tripped, pushed, or spit on; 13% were the subjects of vicious rumors; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose.

Ways to Prevent School Violence

Does bullying cause school violence? Bullying is school violence, and it can escalate to more dangerous, widespread forms of violence. Many districts around the country have elementary, middle, and high school violence prevention programs, but despite the efforts of school personnel, they’re often not enough.

School violence prevention starts with fostering an educational environment that instills respect for others and cultivates a safe atmosphere for everyone.

While prevention is challenging, it’s not impossible. Specific ways to prevent school violence, according to the CDC, include:

  • Providing quality education early in a student’s life
  • Strengthening the skills of young students
  • Promoting family environments that support healthy development
  • Offering interventions to reduce harm and prevent future risk
  • Creating protective community environments
  • Connecting youth to caring adults and activities to foster empathy and respect

It’s important to note that many times school violence does not stem from a lack of effort on the part of schools. Efforts must extend through the schools into communities and the homes of students.

With an increase in screen time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more children than ever before are victims of bullying that begins online.

Violence that starts online can carry over into schools easily, so it’s important to help children understand that they should:

  • Not post images or information that could be harmful to themselves or others
  • Not respond to cyberbullying and save evidence to show a teacher or parent
  • Keep personal information private
  • Never say anything online that they would not say face-to-face
  • Never give out identifying information like their name, address, or phone number

While these actions can help keep children safer, there is more that must be done to cultivate positive learning environments in schools.

School Violence  Prevention Programs  and Workshops

School Violence Prevention Programs and Workshops

A powerful, effective school violence prevention and intervention workshop can be a great boon to schools and communities in their efforts to prevent school violence and bullying. Children must be taught to recognize bullying and encouraged not to join in if they witness it.

Students should be well-informed about school policies on bullying, and staff members must be trained to positively and effectively manage violent and potentially violent situations. Rachel’s Challenge is one such program that inspires and equips everyone in a school building to create permanent, positive changes in themselves and in their schools. Rachel’s Challenge gives them the tools to connect with each other through empathy and kindness.

The program provides an evidence-based framework for positivity in the culture of schools, leading to test scores that go up and disciplinary referrals that go down. With assemblies, live speakers, online activities, and more, Rachel’s Challenge has proven itself time and again to be one of the most powerful, effective, and sustainable programs for preventing school violence.

If you are interested in learning more about Rachel’s Challenge or would like the program to come to your school, contact a representative today.


Rachel’s Challenge has helped me continue my chain reaction an entire decade later. Today, as I cultivate my “save the world gene” as a young professional, I am reminded of where it began. With kindness and compassion.”

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Rachel’s Challenge is the most powerful intervention I’ve seen in my 40 years of educational research.”

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Educator, Researcher, Author


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Principal, Rice Lake High School

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