To offer recommendations aimed at fostering schools as safe learning environments
Learning occurs best in a warm, inviting, safe, and orderly school setting: one in which students are safe and feel free from theft, threats, intimidation, bullying, weapons, drugs, or violence of any type. Principals accept that their first responsibility is to foster such a climate, and the public continues to confirm that priority.
A 2008 survey explored the perspectives of elementary and secondary public school principals on student bullying and harassment and on the policies, programs, and training that principals have instituted in their schools to address these issues. Pertinent findings of the report include:
- Half of public school principals (49%) report that bullying, name calling, or harassment of students is a serious problem at their school
- Bullying or harassment is a particularly prominent problem at the junior high or middle school level
- Most principals respond to incidents of harassment by providing counseling to victims and dealing appropriately with the perpetrator; however, few believe that the majority of bullying or harassment incidents are brought to their attention.
Most principals and teachers are able to recognize the signs and symptoms that are known to lead to violent behavior by troubled students and can pinpoint interventions by working with their colleagues in mental health. More and more, principals are identifying students who may need intervention in the earliest grades. This practice often leads to an overwhelming number of cases as early as kindergarten. Unfortunately, principals and other school personnel find themselves hampered by inefficient systems and biased attitudes that prevent them from helping students and families access appropriate mental health and well-being services.
NASSP Guiding Principles
- School leaders and staff members, along with community members and leaders, have a shared responsibility to ensure that schools are safe and orderly.
- Students and educators have a right to attend schools that have a safe and orderly learning environment.
- The NASSP Breaking Ranks framework calls for a personalized learning environment as a condition for student voice, engagement, and achievement.
- Trusting relationships in school are the most effective means of ensuring school safety, much more so than metal detectors or firearms.
- As a member of the National Safe Schools Partnership, NASSP has endorsed federal policy recommendations to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which will have a dramatic impact in improving school safety and, correspondingly, student achievement for all students.
Recommendations for School Leaders
1. School leaders should recognize that it is the responsibility of the entire staff to teach what they expect students to know and be able to do. Teaching appropriate behavior and deterring negative behavior is a responsibility of every staff member.
2. School leaders should create a personalized, warm, safe, orderly, and inviting school environment that includes an adult for every student and emphasizes the importance of relationships and shared responsibility for nurturing a healthy, positive school climate.
3. School leaders should develop a uniform code of student conduct that contains clear policies that are developed with staff and community involvement, administered fairly and consistently, evaluated on a regular basis, and communicated openly to stakeholders. Those policies should include clear prohibitions regarding bullying and harassment. Further, schools leaders must ensure that students are educated and informed about the code of conduct, as well as expectations for appropriate behavior and the logical consequences of their behavior.
4. School leaders must promptly investigate and take action on all reports of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
5. Schools should focus on effective prevention strategies and professional development that is designed to help school personnel meaningfully address issues associated with bullying and harassment.
6. School leadership teams should collect and compile data regarding safety-related incidents and regularly conduct school safety audits; share findings with staff, students, school partners and the community; and provide student and staff member training for school safety.
7. Schools should regularly administer a schoolwide climate survey of students, parents, and school personnel. The climate survey would measure the degree to which collaborative leadership exists; the personalization of the school environment; and the strength of the curriculum, instruction, and assessment—factors that we believe will lead to student achievement.
8. Schools should develop and continually update emergency preparedness plans that include provisions for responses relating to acts of violence, internal and external threats, weapons, and weapon possession.
9. Schools should implement prevention, intervention, apprehension, and counseling programs to combat negative or violent behavior and to address mental health issues. That includes conflict resolution and peer mediation programs for both students and staff.
Recommendations for District Leaders
10. School districts should establish violence prevention curricula for grades K–12.
11. School districts should promote collaboration to ensure continuity and consistent application of policies and practices.
12. School districts should partner with parents, law enforcement, public and private social service agencies, and other agencies to develop programs and services to foster caring schools and communities.
13. School districts should ensure that school resource officers receive specialized training that will enable them to work with school leaders to ensure a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting school environment.
14. School districts should maintain and report data regarding incidents of bullying and harassment to inform the development of effective federal, state, and local policies to address these issues.
15. School districts should partner with the news media to ensure responsible reporting about school safety issues.
16. School districts should conduct a comprehensive evaluation of a principal’s performance that includes his or her ability to develop and maintain a positive school culture.
Recommendations for state and federal policymakers
17. Federal and state governments should remove barriers between education and local health service agencies and encourage local communities to focus on schools as the hub for delivery of mental and other health services.
18. States should not enact policies that would allow principals or teachers to carry firearms in school.
19. Congress should bolster federal programs to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools.
20. The federal government should give states and local communities the ability to combine federal and state funding from separate agencies to address mental health and school safety issues. The federal government should encourage community–based mental health organizations to work in cooperation with local law enforcement, schools, and other community stakeholders to create a system of community-based mental health response and threat assessment.
21. Congress should assist schools in recruiting and retaining school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists.
22. Congress should restore funding for the COPS Secure Our Schools program, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies purchase and develop school safety resources. The program received just over $13 million in FY 2011, but funding was eliminated in FY 2012.
23. Funding should be secured to deliver age-appropriate programs that align with the national response to intervention framework.
Recommendation for the media and the Federal Communications Commission
24. Advertisers should take responsible steps to present messages that encourage and promote responsible behavior.
25. The Federal Communications Commission should continue its efforts to monitor and provide oversight of broadcasters' programming during prime time and children's viewing hours.
Benbenishty R., & Astor R. (2005). School violence in context: culture, neighborhood, family, school, and gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Blauvelt, P. (2000). Making schools safe for students. Creating a proactive school safety plan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Fein R., Vossekuil, B., Pollack, W., Borum, R., Modzeleski, W., &Reddy, M., (2002). Threat assessment in schools: A guide to managing threatening situations and to creating safe school climates. Washington, DC: US Department of Education and US Secret Service.
GLSEN in cooperation with NASSP. (2008). The principal's perspective: School safety, bullying and harassment. New York, NY: Author.
Kosciw, J. G., Diaz, E. M., & Greytak, E. A. (2007). National school climate survey. The experiences of lesbian, gay, and transgender youth in our nation's schools. New York, NY: GLSEN
National Alliance for Safe Schools. www.safeschools.org
Neiman, S.,& Devoe, J. (2009). Crime, violence, discipline, and safety in U.S. public schools, Findings from the school survey on crime and safety: 2007–08. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Viewer’s guide. Bullied: A student, a school, and a case that made history. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/kits/Bullied_booklet_FINAL.pdf.
Approved February 3, 2000
Revised February 2013