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Bullying - Preventing School Violence
10 CEUs Bullying - Preventing School Violence

Section 20
Identifying Levels of School Violence

Question 20 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Bullying CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

About three million thefts and violent crimes occur in or near primary and secondary schools each year. This represents 16,000 violent and criminal acts per school day, or one violent incident every six seconds. Almost School Violence School Violence counselor CEU course50% of the violence involving children between the ages of 12 and 19 years happens within school buildings, and 12% of violent acts involve lethal weapons. Almost 37% of violent incidents involving guns, knives, and children occur within the commu­nities neighboring the schools (Stephens).

School violence crosses racial, class, and geographic boundaries. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rate of arrests for violent crimes rose twice as fast among young whites as among young blacks between 1982 and 1992. While both ethnic groups accounted for an equal number of violent crimes, black youths were arrested and detained for violent crimes at five times the rate of young whites. Research reveals that black students are significantly more likely than students from other groups to be suspended from school and subjected to various disciplinary measures because of behavior that is considered disruptive, inappropriate, or violent. Students belonging to the middle and upper socioeconomic classes are treated in a more positive manner than are those coming from disadvantaged or lower socioeconomic classes (Persell). Many students experience a significant amount of frustration in school due to low academic achievement and related problems, and aggressive behavior often is the result of this frustration (Campbell-Whatley). Schools are fail­ing to motivate and satisfy the needs and interests of underprivileged and minority students, such as Latinos, Native Americans, and African Americans. Because of this general dissatisfaction and frustration with the academic experi­ence, these students are losing their interest in school and learning. Consequently, academic failure, dropping out, and vandalism and other forms of violence among these groups are increasing (Frederick).

The term "violence" refers to a broad range of situations that are considered inappropriate and unacceptable. Although they are not synonymous, such terms as hostility, psychological and physical aggression, anger, and rage have been associated with the concept of violent behavior. For this discussion, violence is considered an overt, aggressive act that results in physical or psychological pain, injury, or death. The causes of violent student behavior are complicated and involve social, moral, and economic changes in America. These changes make it difficult for parents to provide children with discipline, respect, and responsibility. Students who are troublemakers often are distressed and frustrated individuals whose problems may be caused by situations both inside and outside the school. Because of the important role that the teacher plays in the child’s intellectu­al and emotional well-being, it is important that teachers are sensitive to the changing moods and behavior of their students. Not all violent acts represent the same causes or necessitate the same responses. An awareness of different types of violence will provide opportunities for the teacher to interact effectively with the students when a potentially disruptive classroom situation occurs. In other words, there are different kinds and levels of classroom conflicts that require var­ied strategies for their resolution.

Levels of School Conflict
A major problem in effective classroom management is the failure to recog­nize the different "levels of conflict" and to use strategies that prevent the escala­tion of conflict. Catching conflicts in the early stages of their development can be the best strategy for controlling and resolving them. Trowbridge and Bybee point out that understanding different student behaviors that can lead to pro blem­atic situations can help prevent some conflicts, as well as provide direction and guidelines for the intervention and resolution of others. Such understanding clarifies how conflict escalates; that is, each party moves to a higher level, hoping the other party will back down. In some unfortunate cases, simple conflicts can escalate to violent and destructive episodes with the school.

Potentially violent behaviors are categorized at five levels of complexity and are classified as either active or passive.

Level A
Description: This level is characterized by student behavior and student-directed activi­ties that are considered by the teacher as "unusual and rare for this particular student?’ The observed behavior often is tolerated and associated with the partic­ular age group and level of cognitive development. The teacher often expresses surprise at the student’s reaction to the particular situation.

Observed Student Behavior: The passive student is indifferent, aloof, unconcerned, detached, disinterest­ed, inactive, lazy, or unmotivated. The active student is mischievous, abusive, irritable, anxious, overzealous, or shows impatience or a lack of restraint in dealing with or reacting to stimuli.

Level B
Description: These are rare occasions involving the violation of established norms, but the student is not considered a problem child. There is no history of her or his consistently violating the school or classroom rules.

Observed Student Behavior: The passive student wastes time in idle lingering. This student spends more time than is necessary when doing a classroom assignment. The student occa­sionally daydreams and may attempt to achieve objectives that are regarded by the teacher and peers as impractical and fanciful. The student may begin to alienate himself or herself from peers and does not participate in classroom activities. The active student displays inappropriate behavior that can involve other students, such as teasing or ridiculing another student publicly. This student occasionally clowns at a time when the focus should be on the assigned task. The student may engage in idle remarks and comments, but the disruptive behavior also can involve physical maneuvers. The student seeks affirmation or approval through unconventional means and may be pushy in declaring that certain information is correct when the teacher and peers have unanimously agreed on a different answer.

Level C
Description: This level is characterized by student behavior that shows a consistent pat­tern of conflicts with minor school policies and classroom rules. Although the pattern of inappropriate behavior is recognizable, the rights of peers and teach­ers are seldom violated.

Observed Student Behavior: The passive student often avoids participating in cooperative or group instruction. This student becomes withdrawn, is socially detached and unre­sponsive, and is introverted and coldly impersonal. The active student is habitually disobedient and unruly, violates or disre­gards rules, and abstains from various types of social contact. This student will act in opposition to others, will not participate and is uncooperative, is disagree­able, and will go to extremes to contradict the teacher. The active student will engage in negative behavior and attitudes marked by regular denial of or skepti­cism about nearly everything affirmed by peers and the teacher. He or she tends to refuse to do what is asked or does the opposite of what is asked.

Level D
Description: In this level of conflict, a persistent pattern of behavior violates major school or classroom rules and the rights of others. This pattern of behavior is recognizable and clear to teacher and peers.

Observed Student Behavior: The passive student is depressive. He or she appears to be sad and unmoti­vated. This student is self-destructive and shows a tendency for engaging in such activities as using dangerous drugs or alcohol.  The active student is aggressive. He or she has a hostile attitude and demon­strates it in culpable, unprovoked, overt, hostile attacks. This student fights, inflicts pain, and can engage in sexual attacks. The active student is destructive. He or she seems to possess an instinct to kill and tends to impair, damage, or wreck. This student expresses displeasure outwardly, becoming irate, indignant, and threatening.

Level E
Description: This level is considered the most extreme form of violent behavior and can lead to violence and injury to oneself and others, destruction of property, drug abuse, and other forms of destructive behavior.

Observed Student Behavior: The passive student can develop a dependency on alcohol or drugs that leads to depressive or aggressive behavior. This student can be suicidal. The active student exhibits emotional or physical behavior that can cause injury or harm to self or others. This student may commit vandalism.

Trowbridge and Bybee caution that these levels should be considered as incomplete explanations of adolescent behavior. They are guidelines, not a model for understanding and managing classroom conflict and violence. They provide five basic questions that the teacher must answer in order to understand conduct that may lead to violence:
1. Does the student’s behavior constitute a pattern?
2. Does the student act the same way in other classes?
3. Does the student behave continually in a way that is inappropriate or aggressive for his or her age?
4. Does the student’s behavior consistently violate the rights of others, includ­ing the teacher?
5. May the student’s conduct result in personal harm, either to self or others?

If the majority of the answers are in the affirmative, the principal, the school psychologist, and the parents should be informed and consulted (Trowbridge and Bybee). There are measures that can serve to enhance a positive, productive, and harmonious teaching-learning environment. The levels and severity of school violence will diminish when efforts are made to:
1. Identify and work with students who are at risk of failure and dropping out.
2. Develop and implement curriculum reforms that are designed to motivate and effectively provide for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, sex, or ethnic group.
3. Recruit, train, and hire teachers who are members of the ethnic groups rep­resented in the school. Children tend to respond positively to authority fig­ures with whom they share common cultural and ethnic ties.

School violence is not limited to any particular ethnic group, geographic area, or socioeconomic class. Preventing the escalation of school violence will require combined school-community efforts and the commitment of all Americans to protect and educate all of our children in nonviolent school envi­ronments.
- Frederick PhD, Alfred D, Ernest I Middleton PhD, and Dorothy Butler, PhD; Identification of Various Levels of School Violence; Dealing with Youth Violence: What Schools and Communities Need to Know; Rose Dehon-Sells (ed.); National Educational Service: Indiana; 1995

Personal Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section contained information about identifying levels of school violence.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

According to Frederick’s model, what behavior would an active student at Violence Level B exhibit? Record the letter of the correct answer the Answer Booklet.

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