Minnesota Researchers Take Holistic Approach to Solving School Violence

Minnesota Researchers Take Holistic Approach to Solving School Violence

In a recent school safety training, Minnesota researchers focused their efforts on teaching about mental health and approaching students’ emotional needs, rather than teaching about physical security measures.

Jillian Peterson, a Hamline University criminology professor, presented “holistic violence prevention” training earlier this week to about 60 teachers, school administrators, sheriffs and education policy advocates alongside her research partner James Densley, who is a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University.

The researchers suggested that school violence prevention has been looked at in the wrong way for a while now, and the solution lies in looking into the emotional state of the students, rather than only focusing on physical security measures.

“We’ve been thinking about violence prevention as bullet-proof glass and security and police officers. And it feels and it looks like violence prevention. But what we’re finding with the data is violence prevention can be so much more.”

During the session, Peterson and Densley focused on what intervention skills could be useful for adults in schools, such as de-escalation and suicide prevention.

"Violence prevention is about identifying kids in crisis, it's about having response plans,” Peterson said. “It's a very different framework. It's about building relationships, it's about a shift in school culture. And part of what we're trying to do is create that shift in people's minds — to think more broadly and comprehensively about violence prevention and what it is and what it looks like."

They said that while physical security and evacuation plans are important, mental health issues is a common occurrence in students, and schools should be equipped to help students with those issues.

“We have to build environments of mutual trust and respect between students and adults, and for that matter between students and students. These need to be safe, inclusive environments,” Densley said.

Densley and Peterson explained that this approach will not only help limit the probability of mass shootings, but will hopefully curb overall school violence.

"We're trying to shift this to a thinking around holistic violence prevention. The same steps you could be taking to prevent the extreme mass violence could also actually be preventing the low-level violence: the bullying in the school, and also addressing some of the trauma in the communities where violence is most prevalent," Densley said.

This session was a pilot session, but as this session filled up remarkably quickly, they are seeing a draw to this new way of approaching school violence.

About the Author

Kaitlyn DeHaven is the Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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