How to Prevent School Violence: Mental Detectors not Metal Detectors

 

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

How to Prevent School Violence:
Mental Detectors
not Metal Detectors

 

 

At our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops around the country, youth professionals continue to report seeing more and more children from deeply troubled homes. If you are not a mental health worker, your college training may not have prepared you for working with children whose behavior is driven by the trauma they endure at home. This Behavior and Classroom Management Blog issue gives you a few of the basics all youth professionals need to know in order to maximize their ability to successfully do their job with children from deeply troubled homes. However, please note that these introductory basics are just the very start of the information you'll need.

how to prevent school violenceI am Youth Change Director, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. At age 21, I began my career in a locked state hospital setting working with the most violent youth in Oregon. The first day on the job, I was severely bitten by a 12 year-old felon. That injury plagued me for years. I resolved at that moment to learn everything I could about out-of-control children and teens. I realized that nothing I had learned in college prepared me for the real world of working with acting-out, violent students. I was surprised that I had to piece together the answers I needed, that there was no apparent ready-to-go source of specific, updated, real-world strategies. Let me share with you some of what I learned about how to prevent youth violence.

Due to the short space I have here, this article focuses more on potentially violent children who may be bullied, depressed, in crisis or have huge family problems. However, many violent students and potentially violent students evidence another dynamic. Read more about those youngsters in another Behavior and Classroom Management Blog educational article.

As more and more contemporary children seem to have major family problems compared to years past, it is absolutely critical that both you and your team thoroughly know mental health basics. Since studies emphasize that seeing and helping distressed youth are the primary ways to prevent school shootings, that's another reason that non-mental health youth professionals like educators must upgrade their skills right away. As Richard Lawrence of St. Cloud State University has noted, "We need more mental detectors, not metal detectors in schools."

 

Effective, Updated
School Violence Prevention Strategies
 

student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
See the Pain

How are your "mental detection" skills? Some youth professionals never notice that they're working with children in distress. Not noticing makes it more likely that you might add to the child's burdens, and these children already carry a heavy load. You may also miss any cues that show that this is a child who could one day explode in violence.

Learn to look deeper into problems like sleeping in class, depression, back talk, irritability, and poor performance, to consider if family problems could be the cause. For example, a child may sleep in class not because she's "just a lazy kid" but because it's the only place she has free from the all-night roar of Dad hitting and berating Mom.

 

student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
You Can't Fix It


If you are not a family therapist, be careful about focusing your efforts on changing the family. Veteran counselors struggle to impact severely troubled families. Non-family counselors are unlikely to have the desired impact because they lack the time, expertise, and training to succeed. As a non-mental health worker, your expertise lies with children. Put your energy there instead. You can certainly encourage the family to seek counseling, but understand that family therapy should not be provided by people outside the mental health field.

 

student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
Offer Accommodations


The night after a beating, it can be tough to focus on math. If you have data to indicate abuse, of course you report it, but if you only suspect trauma, be prepared to offer accommodations. If you give traumatized youngsters time to process and recover from recent crises, they will work as hard as they can on days that they are able. Can you fairly ask any more of a human being than that? Since school shooters often feel persecuted or badly treated by others, here is another reason to show you are sensitive and caring instead of adding to the perception that people are mean and just don't care.

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how to stop school violence

 

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student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
Fill in the Gaps


If you can't get the family to do their job, then you fill in the gaps. For example, you may help a child devise a plan to wake up for school each morning, but have granola bars, sox, and other items that the child may need in order to function throughout the day at your site. It's tragic that you must cover for the family to such an extent but if you don't, the child will continue to suffer, and may be so distracted by his unmet physical needs that he can't benefit from the services your site offers. Since studies show that many school shooters were having trouble coping, that is another compelling reason to fill in the gaps. Most school shooters are also young males, thus the use of that particular pronoun here.

 

student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
Evaluate and Upgrade Deficit Skills


Here is a very quick way to see if your team members are competent "mental detectors" able to spot children in distress. Can your team members name the 4 most common mental health/ family problems that children face? The answer is included in our Follow-Up Resources section immediately below, but before you scroll down to look, stop and consider if you know the answer. (To all our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop past participants: you should all know this.)

If all the members of your team cannot name these 4 problems, how can they spot children with these concerns? Teams that do not know how to spot distress lack the ability to prevent school shootings. Don't believe us? This assertion originates with the 2003 Secret Service/ U.S. Dept. of Ed study on school shooters. Upgrade deficient skills now– for the sake of students who suffer– and to more effectively ensure that a shooting never happens at your site. As the study indicates, metal detectors will never work as well as mental detectors.

 

student violence prevention How to Prevent School Violence
Follow-up Resources


Did you know the top 4 mental health/family problems that children face? These problems can affect the child directly or another family member. These problems are: 1) substance abuse; 2) severe emotional disturbance; 3) sexual abuse; and 4) physical, verbal or emotional abuse. If you didn't know this, that means you need to upgrade your skills. Some suggestions: our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop is a fast, comprehensive option. You don't have to come to a live class. You can also get the entire course online, and you can bring the workshop to your site or conference. We still have popular back-to- school dates open for on-site inservice sessions, but they are rapidly disappearing. Call to schedule your class now: 1.800.545.5736.

Another resource: Our Child's Guide to Surviving in a Troubled Family is full of lessons to ease the difficulties that distressed children endure. It is $15. If these options don't meet your needs, email us for help finding resources that would work for you. We care about you and your students and we are here to help. Please note that many of our resources are free or low cost, and we offer scholarships to our workshops.

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


What Every Youth Professional Must Know About Violent Students, Part 2

 

classroom management blog


What Every Youth Professional
Must Know About Violent Students

Part 2 of 2

 

 

school violencePart 2 of 2

workshop presenter Ruth Herman WellsHere is Part 2 of 2 sections of this important article on violence prevention.

It is part of the intial three introductory articles inYouth Change Workshops' Behavior and Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog.

I'm author, keynote speaker and workshop trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. If you missed Part 1, find it here.

This is Part 2 of 2 sections on student violence prevention. Feel free to share this critical, must-know safety information about violent students, with your colleagues and administrators.

Recap of Part 1


In the last issue, we explained the term "conduct disorder", and gave an introduction to this youngster, who is perhaps at highest risk of extreme violence. The first part of this article emphasized how you must work differently with CDs compared to any other kids. Hopefully, we successfully conveyed how critical it is to work with CDs differently than everyone else, or risk finding yourself or others in dangerous situations. Hopefully, we also successfully emphasized how important it is for non-mental health workers who are new to the concept of conduct disorder, to thoroughly update their skills for working with these hard-to-manage youth.
 

Students at 2nd and 3rd Risk of Extreme Violence


These youth are not nearly at as great a risk as the child with conduct disorder. We will cover each of these 2 types of youth separately, but must stress that the risk for both of these 2 groups drops off from that posed by conduct disorders. Of course, remember that when any child appears to be potentially violent, you take that concern seriously, regardless of whether the child was on our list. This list is meant only to guide you when you lack any specific events or circumstances that show you how to apportion your time, supervision and other resources to best maximize your violence prevention efforts.

 

Thought Disorders

The risk posed by children who have thought disorder, is probably far less than that of conduct disordered youth. Part of the explanation is that there are probably a lot more conduct disordered kids than thought disordered ones. The other reason that explains the somewhat distant #2 status is that the thought disordered child may be well-intentioned, kind, and loving at times. These children do have consciences. The child with conduct disorder is really never is able to care about anyone else. Another reason to explain the distant #2 status is that often the thought disordered child will act in rather than act out. In terms of violence prevention, that means they probably pose more of a threat to self rather than others.

Unless you work in a treatment setting, just a very small fraction of the children you work with, may have what mental health professionals call a thought disorder. Like diagnosing conduct disorder, thought disorder can only be determined by a mental health professional. A lay person can do grave harm attempting to diagnose mental health disorders. While the thinking of the conduct disorder is clear and lucid, that assumption is not always true for the thought-disordered child. The child who has been diagnosed with this type of problem by a mental health worker, has very serious problems with their thinking. The child may hear voices or see visions that no one else can, for example. The child may believe demons or devils are governing them. If the voices, for instance, tell the child to hurt someone, then the child may feel compelled to do it. As for the implications for violence prevention, this is where potential danger could lie.

The thrust of working with a diagnosed thought disorder on proper medication, although focusing on skill building and structure are also important. The single most important concern will be that the child takes any prescribed medication regularly and properly, because when properly medicated, this child may function almost normally in many ways. When not correctly medicated, this child is at the mercy of any demons, visions, voices or upsetting thoughts that pop into their head.

 

Severely Agitated, Depressed Kids

The occurrence of extreme violence by severely depressed, agitated children probably also greatly lags behind the risk posed by conduct disorders. This term refers to a child who has experienced extremely severe problems with depression, and also struggles mightily at least once with agitation. Many kids, especially teens, struggle with depression, but this group endures some of the most prolonged, profound, deep depression; this should not be confused with typical adolescent ups and downs.

Crisis, sudden changes and the usual adolescent successes and failures can quickly de-stabilize this child who is already seriously struggling. This youngster is very vulnerable to more minor vicissitudes, meaning that the youngster can blow up in reaction to moderate set-backs. Often, it is "the straw that broke the camel's back" that can light the fuse. Bullying can be the source of the blow-up, but it can be almost anything that triggers this youngster. Like all the other disorders discussed here, only mental health professionals can diagnose severe depression. Consult one if needed. When facing violence prevention concerns with this child– or any other student– always seek immediate, expert help if you are even a bit unsure how to proceed.

Any emotion that a child has trouble managing may get acted out or acted in. Depression is generally acted in. Many view it as anger turned inward: the child withdraws, reduces their activities, may eat less, etc. But, depression can also be acted out. Feeling cornered, unable to endure any more pain, some children will act out, sometimes lashing out in very severe ways.

All things in nature strive to come to a conclusion. Storms eventually dissipate, the rain ultimately gives way to sun, and even the snow will eventually end. Humans, as part of nature, also tend to move towards resolution. For some children, extreme violence can be the flash point that offers that resolution. When there appears to be no hope, perhaps the child believes that there is nothing left to lose.

Depression can be tough on adults, but couple the depression with a child's lack of time concept, lack of perspective, their impulsiveness, immaturity, and resistance to understanding the link of actions to final outcomes, extreme violence can seem to be a solution. If this vulnerable child becomes involved with a conduct disordered peer, you can see how under certain circumstances, that could become a deadly combination as the depressed, agitated child may join in the acting-out.

To help this child, alleviating some of the torment will be critical. Help to manage anger in socially acceptable ways, tempering the depression, and alleviating some of the agitation can keep this child from remaining at the level of extreme discomfort they currently experience. If this child receives useful aid to vent the agitation and can find some tempering of the depression, any risk of extreme violence can be significantly impacted.

Of the three risk categories, this group's concerns are potentially the most amenable to intervention by you, and is of the three, the most hopeful diagnosis. You can have much lasting impact on this child. The three best interventions: Talking out problems, exercising and possibly anti-depressants.

 

Appraising the Risk

Now you can look at your class or group and not just wonder where the where potential, serious danger could come from. Now that you have more refined guesses about which youth potentially pose potential danger, here is a way to better rank that risk in your mind. A juvenile court judge in Springfield, Oregon, said after the shooting there, "These kids are like little match sticks waiting to be lit." To adapt that image a bit, here is how you can apply that thinking to the three at-risk groups listed here.

You can imagine that the conduct disorder is already lit; a flame is burning. Whether that flame becomes smaller, flares larger, or creates an inferno, is anyone's guess, but the flame is burning always, the potential for disaster is always there.

The thought-disordered child may be like a pilot light, a tiny flame that is always lit, but is fairly unlikely to inexplicably get massively bigger or out of control. Properly shepherded and assisted, this light may stay forever just a benign flicker. Unshepherded or inadequately assisted, however, this flame can get bigger, even flare out of control.

The extremely agitated depressed child may be the unlit match stick that the judge visualized. Outside factors will likely come into play to incite any flare-up. Outside forces could include peer pressure, bullying, crises, substance abuse, family woes, or just mounting problems that fuel the agitation and create a profound, all-encompassing sense of desperation that leads the child to "spontaneously" combust. Like the thought-disordered child, the severely agitated depressed youth can often be so readily aided if the community can identify them, then consistently care and effectively intervene.

In Summary

If you work with kids, but you are not a mental health professional, maybe it's time to at least learn some of the basics about children's mental health. And, no matter what your role with children, please consider it your obligation to train your kids to be peaceful. That may be the most important contribution you could make in a world that so thoroughly ensures that every child knows so much about extreme violence, and so little about anything peaceful.


For More Information on Violence Prevention:

Be sure to visit the web site for more information you can access right now. If you do come to our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop, we'll spend as much time on this complicated child as you want. Or, you can arrange an on-site workshop presentation on violent students held at your site for your staff.

webtitlesNeed an online alternative? Our Control the Uncontrollable Students Online Class has what you need, plus 1 free clock hour.

Conduct disorder book If you prefer to read, check out our All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Conduct Disorders and Anti-Social Youth book or ebook.
 

 

Previous Behavior and Classroom Management Blog Issue:

The 3 Types of Students at Highest Risk of Extreme Violence (Part 1)

 

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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

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    Contact Us*  *Not for Unsubscribing
     

    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


What Every Youth Professional Must Know About Violent Students

 

classroom management blog


What Every Youth Professional
Must Know About Violent Students

Part 1 of 2

 

 

violent studentPart 1 of 2

workshop presenter Ruth Herman WellsThis is author, keynote speaker and workshop trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. This article is one of the most important I've ever written. That is why we are making it one of our introductory articles for Youth Change Workshops' Behavior and Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog.

This is Part 1 of 2 sections. Feel free to share this critical, must-know safety information about violent students, with your colleagues and administrators.

There are three types of kids who may be at the highest risk of extreme violence. Obviously, you must take seriously any threat or indication of danger from any kid, so if a dangerous child you know doesn't fit one of these categories, please don't just breathe a sigh of relief. Rather, the point of emphasizing these three top-risk youth, is to have you apportion your time wisely. You can't monitor each child equally. This information may guide you on who you monitor most closely, especially in the absence of other events or information to guide you.

In this space, we will have time to cover only one of these violent students in any kind of detail. We will cover the second two types of students in the third issue of this magazine, plus we'll expand a bit on the information covered here. Our information on the 3 most violent students was first published by The Child Welfare Report in 1998, and is updated and revised here.

The youth at highest risk of extreme violence may be the conduct disordered child. If you don't already know this term, visualize the fictional character, J.R. from the TV show "Dallas" because the hallmark of being a conduct disorder (CD), is having no heart, no conscience, no remorse.

Only a mental health professional can diagnose a conduct disorder for sure, but being aware that you may have a conduct disordered child in your class or group, is important to ensuring your safety, along with the safety of your students, because you work with conduct disorders completely differently than other kids. Since the child with CD has no conscience or relationship capacity, you should not use relationship-based approaches with a diagnosed conduct disorder.

It would be insensitive to call a conduct disorder a "baby sociopath," but that is close to what the term means. It means that the child acts in ways that appear to be seriously anti-social, and the concern is that the child may grow up to be a sociopathic type of person.

Since this child cares only about himself (CDs are predominately male), there are little brakes slowing this child from doing serious or extreme violence. Not every conduct disordered child will engage in horrific behavior. There is a range of misbehavior student with CD may get involved with, ranging from lying to setting fires or being a sexual predator. At the most serious end of the spectrum, lies the possibility of extreme violence, such as a school shooting. Sadly, youth with CD are often your violent students.

Conduct disorder book violent student workshopIn our workshop, we spend at least several hours helping you understand how to work with students with conduct disorder. You can come to one of our workshops, get the workshop online  or get some of our books or ebooks  that teach you how to work with this most hard-to-manage, violent student. But do something to make sure you thoroughly understand how to work completely differently with this violent student than any other child. Your safety– and that of your students– depends on how well you understand and manage these potentially violent youngsters.
 

Methods for Conduct Disordered Youth

There's not space for all the critical do's and don't's that you must know but here are some of the most important to give you a bit of an introduction to what you need to know:

DO

The main point we give in our classes is that these children operate on a cost-benefit system, and that to control your students with CD, you must keep the costs high, and benefits low. These children also especially need to pro-actively learn how to manage their fists, mouth, and actions. Your goal is to teach them that when they hurt others, it often hurts them too. All interventions must be in the context of "I-Me," because that is all this youngster is capable of caring about.

DON'T

There are so many "DON'Ts" that it's hard to know where to start. Even more problematic, many of the ordinary techniques that you use with other kids utterly fail with CDs, and are actually quite dangerous to use. Here are several of the most critical concerns to be aware of when you work with a diagnosed– that's the important word here– conduct disorder. Without the diagnosis, use these guides especially carefully. It's important to note that a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing, so be sure to upgrade your skills on CDs more thoroughly than reading this brief introduction. You can easily use our resources for this purpose. Since safety is always a serious concern when working with CDs, there is no substitute for learning more than the headlines listed here.

DON'T have a heart-to-heart relationship.

DON'T work on building trust.

DON'T rely on compassion, caring, empathy, values, morals.

DON'T expect compassionate behavior.

DON'T trust.

DON'T give second chances.

DON'T believe they care or feel remorse.

Hopefully this brief guide to the hardest-to-manage, most potentially dangerous youth will help you avoid using everyday interventions that will be unproductive, even dangerous. Hopefully this information will steer you towards relying on non-relationship-based interventions that emphasize learning skills like anger control, managing the fist, etc. along with firm rules, boundaries and limits.

 

For More Information on Violent Students:

Be sure to visit the web site for more information you can access right now. If you do come to our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop, we'll spend as much time on this complicated child as you want. Or, you can arrange an on-site workshop presentation on violent students held at your site for your staff.

webtitlesNeed an online alternative? Our Control the Uncontrollable Students Online Class has what you need, plus 1 free clock hour.

Conduct disorder book If you prefer to read, check out our All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Conduct Disorders and Anti-Social Youth book or ebook.
 

 

Next Behavior and Classroom Management Blog Issue:

2 More Types of Students at Highest Risk of Extreme Violence (Part 2)

 

  •  


    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

    Subscribe Unsubscribe/Change Subscription
    Contact Us*  *Not for Unsubscribing
     

    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.