Warning Signs Of Violent Behavior
Warning Signs Of Violent Behavior
Michael Dorn and Sonayia Shepherd (School Safety Analysts) gives expert video advice on: What are the signs my school is at risk for violence?; Is there a way to predict which students may become violent?; What are the common characteristics of violent youth? and more...
What are the signs my school is at risk for violence?
The signs that a school is at risk for violence or conflict are things like behavior infractions increasing, the number of kids that are articulating that they're feeling unfair, things like underground newspapers, blogs with kids articulating that they perceive their school to be unsafe. Also the increasing numbers of fights, gang activities, and disgruntled parents complaining that they see things in the school that are unsafe. So there are a lot of opportunities for schools to listen to the students and the parents alike, in order to increase safety.
What are the common characteristics of violent youth?
The common characteristics of violent youth are things like rage for seemingly minor reasons. Youth that are in gangs. Youth that have said they are carrying weapons or are reporting to have carried weapons. Other things include the youths expressing violence in writings. Of course, it must be contextual, but expressing violence in writing is one common thing. Also, a fascination with violence, guns, weapons and video games that promote guns and violence and weapons. The main thing is for students to be observed and looked at very closely, and any type of threat or behavioral changes should be followed up.
What are the common characteristics of school shootings?
It's really difficult to characterize school shootings, because most school shootings that are highly publicized don't fit the mould of common school shootings, which are things like gang violence and fights that escalate to a level of a shooting. Unfortunately, the incidents that we've seen in the media, Columbine and Virginia Tech, are very rare and they don't fit the common mould. However, they are very tragic, and we see increasingly things like students being loners. Although, those who have committed acts of violence in schools have not always been loners. Some of them are very social. It's very difficult to profile the characteristics of shootings, but there is a profile of a school that can have a violent incident, such as not having a safety plan, not having good parental involvement, or not having student input. Those are common characteristics of a school that could have a shooting. It's very important that schools take an approach of including community partners: mental health, public health, law enforcement, in creating a program that has the input of parents and students alike.
What are the most significant warning signs of violent behavior?
Significant warning signs for violent behaviour may be students who articulate violence or who want to commit some type of act of violence to other students and articulate that in writing. Also students who get angry really quickly, students who are depressed, show signs of depression, students who, you know, just may articulate to a teacher or to a counsellor that they don't feel happy, that they feel like they're being victimized, perceived feelings of unfairness in the school. These all contribute to a students thought of perhaps committing an act of violence, and the most important thing is don't ignore the signs. Schools, should be very, very careful in ensuring that they're listening to the students and that they're listening to the teachers, and any concern that they may have, that they need to be investigated and followed up.
What are the early warning signs of violent behavior?
Some early warning signs could be things like persistent antisocial behavior. For example, students who are commonly social, but they're not so much social anymore. Other early warning signs are students who will drop out of extracurricular activities that they really love doing. Also, students complaining to the administration, about maybe being picked on, or bullied. Other warning signs could be other students going to the administration saying, "hey, we have a concern about this student", or parents, or the community, coming together and saying, "This child is in our community". Maybe a boy's or girl's club worker will go to the school administration and say, "We've seen some things that are disconcerting to us". The biggest thing is that teachers, councillors and school officials need to go with their gut reaction, and if they have any concerns about any student exhibiting any of the warning signs, they really need to get that student help immediately.
What are the signs that violence could be imminent?
Imminent warning signs are things like fire-setting. Also, a student may be showing cruelty to animals, or maybe to a pet in a classroom, and a teacher sees that a student is treating the animal inappropriately, or treating other students inappropriately. Other imminent warning signs include fighting, rage, or throwing things for minor reasons. Imminent warning signs can be things like bomb making, or fire-setting. At that point, you don't have a lot of time to talk to the students. You have to have a plan in place where these imminent warning signs are acted upon quickly, and perhaps involving law enforcement may be a way to get quick action.
What are the four areas to consider in assessing potentially violent youth?
The four main areas that we look at in accessing potentially violent youth are areas such as the child's personality. What are the behaviors? Are they exhibiting any early or imminent warning signs? Other areas such as family areas are whether this child is exposed to domestic violence. Is the family partaking in any type of drug use? Is the child exposed to that? Other areas could be community. Is that child involved in any type of community programs? Are drugs available in the community? What community does this child live in? Another big area that we look at is their school. What are they doing in school? How are their grades? What are their activities? Are they participating in extracurricular activities? Do the schools have any concerns? Also, family members in those and other people that are in that child's life are important.