Preventing School Violence

New York State is responding to rising concerns about school violence with informative tools designed to help school personnel manage the problem. This booklet is not intended to be used as a stand-alone training document, but rather as a starting point to begin thinking about your own school district's needs and the measures that are currently employed to prevent violence and to promote a safe and positive learning environment.

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State of New York, George E. Pataki, Governor

Office of Mental Health, James L. Stone, MSW, CSW, Commissioner

This booklet is the result of a collaborative partnership between: the Council on Children and Families, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the New York State Education Department, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health and the New York State Police.

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Assessing Risk and Red Flags

While most threats that youths make are not acted upon, all threats whether written, verbal, or physical must be addressed and responded to.

What threats from youths should make you worry?

When a youth makes a threat, you must assess:

  1. How serious is the threat that was made?
  2. What do you know about the youth who made the threat?
  3. Has the youth specified a plan to carry out the threat?
  4. Does the youth have the means to carry out the threat?

To help assess questions one and two, consider the "red flags" that research has found to be most associated with violence in youth.

Evaluation of any threat must be done in the context of the individual youth's past behavior, personality, and current stressors. To help assess this, evaluate whether the threat or plan is realistic or could be accomplished; a 6-year-old threatening to blow up the school with an atomic bomb will probably present less risk than a 14-year-old threatening to kill a teacher with a gun. Access to guns or other weapons raises a threat to a potentially lethal level. Determining if there are guns present in a youth's home or whether the youth is part of a gang that may have access to weapons will help to assess the risk of violence.

Risk Factors

There are known risk factors associated with potential violence toward self and others. It is important to keep in mind that none of these risk factors alone is sufficient for predicting violence, and it may be inappropriate or potentially harmful to use them simply as a checklist for an individual youth. This list should not be used to stereotype or stigmatize individual youths because they appear to fit a set of risk factors.

School risk factors

Personal risk factors

Community and environmental risk factors

Family risk factors

Managing Situations

What if a youth makes a threat that puts him or her or others in imminent danger? For instance a weapon may be present.

Treat this as an emergency. To diffuse the situation you should:

You should familiarize yourself with your school's Incident Management Plan, asking four questions:

Knowing the answer to each question before a crisis happens will better prepare you and your school to act effectively. For more information or training on handling violent or potentially violent situations, contact the New York State Police or your local law enforcement agencies and ask about programs for schools in your community.

What if a youth who has exhibited some of the red flags makes a threat that may be carried out but does not pose imminent danger?

What if I still have concerns about a youth?

Work with your school's administration to obtain an examination by a qualified mental health professional whenever you are concerned about threats a youth makes. While there is no foolproof method of identifying potentially dangerous youths, it is best to bring your concerns to the attention of people who can professionally assess the risk for violence.

Violence Prevention Strategies

These strategies may be helpful in mediating the risk factors

for violence.

Encourage "protective" factors

Protective factors that can counter the negative impact of some risk factors associated with violence include:

Individual characteristics
Adults with healthy beliefs and clear standards

Interventions at the individual level

School-wide strategies

Safe school environments require an atmosphere that demonstrates respect for, communication with, and responsibility to one another on a day-to-day basis. A positive school environment provides youths with tools to handle conflict in nonviolent ways. Here are some ways to facilitate such an environment:

District-wide strategies

Discipline codes should be reviewed periodically and comply with federal, state, and local education laws. Be sure consequences are commensurate with the violation, for example, employ a "graduated sanctions" approach to discipline. Detention, suspension, and expulsion policies should be reviewed and clearly defined so that the discipline code can be enforced consistently, firmly, and fairly.

Community Programs

Many resources are available in the community to help schools prevent, prepare for, and manage school emergencies. In addition

to your local law enforcement and mental health agencies, they can include youth bureaus, private foundations and not-for-profit agencies. Many offer speakers or training to school personnel and youths. Local businesses or churches may provide volunteering or employment opportunities, mentoring or structured recreational activities for youths.

State Resources

For more information about violence prevention and safe school planning you may contact the following:

New York State Police 518-457-2180
Programs for schools andcommunities
New York State Education Department 518-486-6090
Comprehensive Health and Pupil Services Team
Upstate Center for School Safety 914-255-8989
Downstate United Way 212-973-3894
New York City Technical Assistance Center
New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-8394
School-based program and county mental health services
New York State Office of Children & Family Services Public Information: 518-473-7793
Aggression Replacement Training (ART)
Getting Kid Smart
Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services 800-522-5353
School and community-based prevention,intervention and treatment programs
New York State Department of Health
Public Information 518-474-5422
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services 518-457-8462
Office of Funding & Program Assistance
Council on Children and Families 518-474-6294
Resource guides from child serving state agencies

National Resources

United States Department of Education

Safe and Drug Free Schools

Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office

Safe Schools: A Planning Guide for Action

Safe Schools, Safe Students (manual)

A guide to Violence Prevention Strategies

Center for Safe Schools

Toolkit for School Safety Planning

Crisis Prevention Institute, Inc.

Non Violent Crisis Intervention Training Programs

Youth Crime Watch America

Peer programs to reduce crime and drugs in schools

National PTA


National School Safety Center


National Institute for Dispute Resolution and National Association for Mediation in Education


National Crime Prevention Council


American Association of School Administrators


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America


Boys and Girls Clubs of America


Center for the Prevention of School Violence


Note: Online addresses are case sensitive

Managing situations, steps for threat assessment and resolution

Managing Situations Flow Chart

For additional copies, please call the New York State Office of Mental Health, Bureau of Children and Families at (518) 474-8394