Preventing and Managing School Violence

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on June 6, 2012 10:49 am

Children are barometers of the chaos that exists within their lives.  If a child’s internal and external lives are proving emotionally gregarious, then life can prove personally limitless.  However, if life is proving egregious in nature, then all forms of life may feel personally bleak and without personal merit. 


Children who act out violently are frequently displaying signs of desperation. Desperation may be fueled by a child feeling excluded, judged, disrespected, disapproved, disavowed, or unloved.

Acts of school violence have left many with feelings of frustration, indifference, and a feeling that schools utterly are incompetent.  The reality is, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students themselves are feeling hopeless and desperate to bring normalcy to the academic process.   


Anger is most commonly the root cause of school violence.   What is anger?  Anger is a strong emotional response to a situation, event, circumstance, or person.  It is this displeasure with life at school, in their home, or globally.

There are two types of anger:  good anger which is a righteous form of anger, and bad anger which is an unrighteous portrayal of anger.  Good anger is a reactive response to a violent act, crime, action, or deed.  If I am wronged, then I have a right to be angry over this act.  However, if I carry this anger beyond the momentary confines of the act, then the anger may fester into becoming my own personal nemesis.  All forms of anger should be cognitively dealt with during their onset. 

Bad anger stems from a perceived wrong or a personal imbalance of my life.  I may perceive that someone has intentionally been rude or hostile unto me, while the reality is, the person had no intentions of displaying such negative characteristics.  Likewise, all people have moments of personal negativity or indifference.  We should never assume that someone is intending us undue harm or distress, rather we should seek to confirm the imbalance in another’s life.   


Schools should be aware of problematic students.  They should have a grasp of the level of violence which ensues each child’s life, and if possible, the causation of the violence.   If there is a student that has proven violent, or has violent tendencies, the school should act proactively offering psychotherapy.  Why should the school take on the financial burden of a student’s therapy?  Consider the following, if a school does not offer psychotherapy, then the school will most-assuredly be bogged down by the behavioral expressions of violence.  Furthermore, if the student does ensue a violent act, then the students, teachers, parents, and administrators become prone to the student’s behavioral attitudes, percepts, and acts. 

Reinforce student rules and code of ethics.  Even the youngest of children should be offered a student handbook, which should be made accessible online.  Being consistent is a necessity when dealing with violent acts or threats.  However, if you treat any student as a potential threat or predator, they will surely meet your expectations.  Treat all students with a graceful and merciful attitude.  If students feel respected, they will reflect a respectful attitude.  Always seek to implement a win-win approach when dealing with students.  Never assume that a child is bad or incapable of improvement, always assume that a child is capable of improvement. 

Recognize the warning signs.  If a student is a potential threat, you can be assured that there is always a warning sign.  Whether or not we pick up on the verbal and nonverbal cues, we should be attentive to all communication being received from individual students.   Troubled students are often displaying oppositional and antisocial behaviors.  It is rare that a student acts out, before having already verbally or nonverbally communicated their disgust with life, situations, events, or others. 


A troubled child reads like a roadmap, be aware of the signs. The following is a brief list of  signs and symptological characteristics of a troubled child: 

  •  history of bullying or being bullied
  • sudden lowering of grades or academic performance
  • lacks close friends, or has suddenly departed from his or her close friends
  • history of behavioral issues, outbursts, and problems
  • children who have endured any form of abuse, whether personally or vicariously
  • use of abusive language and communication
  • a known history of using drugs or alcohol
  • has little regard for the safety or wellbeing of others
  • history of, or sudden decrease in school attendance
  • children who have a preoccupation with violence (television, movies, games, art, music or literature)
  • has a history of suicidal or homicidal ideation or communication
  • a child who has brought a weapon to school or school related activities
  • has been known to be abusive to animals
  • has a history of sudden rage, anger, or violence

Teachers and administrators should be trained with Cognitive Behavioral Approaches.  Teachers should challenge students who are communicating distorted and negative thinking.  If a teacher offers positive communication, then the student is less likely to reflect negative or hostile attitudes.  One of the greatest challenges of disruptive behaviors, is offering positive feedback rather than negative.   If a student acts out, modify the students behavior through active and reflective listening.   Always offer students alternatives to their negative thought-patterns, behaviors, and choices.  Teachers and administrators can offer problem solving skills, life skills, critical thinking skills, and coping skills. Be a model of proactivity. 

Schools should be focused on instilling positive environments, rather than reactive environments.  If a school focuses on always being on guard, then the school is proving reactive rather than proactive.  Schools and administrators should be most-of-all concerned about implementing an environment of human respect and personal dignity. 


During the past couple of decades, the increase of school violence has caused schools to choose legal remedies rather than in-house resolutions. The problem is, that when students are suspended from school, they are left to brew upon the event, rather than being offered positive resolutions for their negative actions.   

Behavioral modification

Rather than suspending students for fighting or acting out; the restorative initiative calls for  face-to-face encounters with parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, and the students themselves.  Recent research has shown that children who have been given a second chance have a greater probability of recovery; whereas children who are suspended have a higher likelihood of abandoning their academic pursuits leaving them vulnerable to society’s woes.  Therefore, it is society’s obligation to raise a child, with the respect, dignity, and unconditional love that we all deserve. 

Author:   Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C.


Allen, J. G. (Ed) (2004) Coping with trauma, Hope through understanding (2nd ed) Washington, DC:  American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Brown, A. D. (2008) The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview. Minneapolis, MN: Proquest LLC

Cobia, D. C., Sobansky, R. R., & Ingram, M. (2004) Female survivors of childhood sexual  abuse: Implications for couples’ therapists. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy Couples and Families. 12 (3) 312-318

Osofsky, J. D., (Ed.) (2004) Young children and trauma, Intervention and treatment. New York,   NY: The Guilford Press.

Sattler, J. M. (2002) Assessment of children, Behavioral and clinical applications (4th ed.) San Diego, CA: Jerome M. Sattler, Publisher, Inc.

Thomas, P. (2003) Is it right to fight? A first look at anger. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Whitehouse, E. & Pudney, W. (1996) A volcano in my tummy, Helping children to handle anger. Gabriola Island, BC:  New Society Publishers

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

6 comments on “Preventing and Managing School Violence”

  1. Deborah Pickering says:

    Hello Dr. Brown,

    This article is right on the mark, right where the focus needs to be in relation to unacceptable behavior in schools. I could say unacceptable behavior of youth, but it is the unacceptable behavior of the adults in the lives of the youth as well.

    Whenever I read about, or hear talk about the trouble with youth these days, the solutions are always aimed at the children and adolescents. Yes, they must learn what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Unfortunately it is most often behavior which is learned from the adults in their lives. When a child is experiencing trauma or abuse at home and then acts out at school they are too often just written off as a troublemaker. No more thought or consideration is given to the cause of the behavior and that is what is unacceptable on the part of the adults.

    The important thing here, which you have written about, is teaching the adults how to recognize a truly troubled youth and, how to deal with that youth. Often when the adults, whether they are the teacher or parent, have no training or education in how to deal with these troubled situations and they may cause more harm than do good.

    It is not my intent to point fingers at parents or teachers, only to agree with your assessment of what is wrong and what can be done, especially within our schools. Perhaps it will be necessary to advocate for this type of psychological learning to become a mandatory requirement for those entering the field of education. If only it were possible to enforce that kind of learning upon those intending to become parents! Ah well, then it would be a perfect world and hence, boring! Wonderful article Dr. Brown, thank you very much.
    Cheers, Deb P.

    1. Dear Deb P.

      Thank you for taking the time to review and offer feedback on this article. It is true that “…unacceptable behavior of youth (is a part of the problem), but it is the unacceptable behavior of the adults in the lives of the youth… (that may lead to graver issues).” I wholeheartedly agree that it would be beneficial for teachers to gain a psychological perspective on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in the classroom, school playground, and the home.

      Thank you for offering your perspective.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  2. Tracy says:

    Thank you Dr Brown for your insights. It is important to remind teachers and school administration that they spend at least 6 hours/day, 5 days/week with our children. Our children are in an interactive community with their peers and this is a prime environment for their emotions, feelings, and issues to surface. By equipping our teachers with the skills to recognize areas of concern and potential risks we are protecting all our children from harm.

    Thank you again for your thoughts


    1. Dear Tracy,

      I am sincerely appreciative of your time and review. I wholeheartedly agree that we must be “…equipping our teachers with the skills to recognize areas of concern and potential risks we are protecting all our children from harm.” After all, it is all about our children and our future. As parents, we are our children’s greatest advocates.

      May you have a truly blessed day.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Linda E. Lees says:

    This is an excellent article and I feel should be sent to all schools and for all teachers or caregivers to read. I think that the changes in attitudes of teachers and administrator’s would reflect on seeing happier and less stressful environments for our children.

    1. Dear Linda E. Lees,

      Thank you for taking the time to review and reply to my latest article. I wholeheartedly agree “…that the changes in attitudes of teachers and administrator’s would reflect on seeing happier and less stressful environments for our children.” It would be not only be reflected in the school environment, but in the community at large.

      Again, know that I am appreciative of your time and review.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *