Luvenia Jackson knows students can’t learn when they’re in jail. During 40 years in education, the Clayton County Public Schools superintendent has seen that academic performance cannot improve systemwide under zero-tolerance discipline.
Since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, there have been an estimated 262 other school and college shooting incidents. Tragic as they are, each incident reveals another piece to the puzzle of why such events occur and how to prevent them, says forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy.
Chronic discipline problems, truancy and a negative school culture can all lead to poor student outcomes. In most schools, a minority of students disrupt the entire classroom, and teachers spend an average of 45 minutes per incident attempting to resolve an issue.
Mass shootings in the United States have tripled since 2011, according to Harvard University researchers. And as of late October, 29 shootings took place in K12 schools this year.
Since 2013, 156 shootings had rattled nerves, and had injured or killed students and staff members in both K12 schools and colleges, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. In some cases, a gun was fired but no one was injured, the group reports.
Disproportionate suspension rates for black students and disabled students have created a national “discipline gap,” making it more difficult for these students to succeed academically, according to the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA
School administrators across the country are turning to portable panic buttons, cloud-based crisis management systems and other technology in the search for new ways to keep students and staff safe. The price tag can run from a few thousand dollars to well into six figures, but administrators say the cost is worth it.
Emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries in adolescents have risen significantly since 2009, according to a study in July Pediatrics. Schools looking to curb this behavior have turned to new mental health programs that focus on navigating stress and emotional regulation.
Despite national campaigns to combat bullying, 3 in 10 districts still do not have policies that protect students from harassment. And many of these school systems are in states that require such rules by law, according to a July report from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, also known as GLSEN.
As transgender students win sturdier legal protections from state and federal laws, more district leaders have given members of this growing population rights to choose the names they’ll respond to at roll call, which bathrooms they’ll use and which athletic teams they’ll join.
Only a handful of school districts attempt rigorous, round-the-clock monitoring of social media traffic to spot threats against their schools or students. Leaders in these districts say the extra level of security acts as an early-warning system that can prevent young people from hurting themselves or others.
Parents have taken over Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. This has sent device-laden students flocking to social media apps such as Instagram, SnapChat and Yik Yak, and the shift has created new challenges for administrators trying to root out cyberbullying and threats of violence.
Attacks by external hackers on Sony and Target make big headlines, but in K12 the threats more often come from the inside. Plaguing districts with increasing frequency are distributed denial of service attacks that, for pure mischief’s sake, saturate servers with so many external communications requests that they cannot respond to legitimate school traffic.