Teachers express need for both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ approaches as they see negative change in students’ mental health
Montpelier, VT - (September 23, 2019) Ninety-two percent of K-12 educators feel safe going to school on a regular basis and 65 percent feel prepared to respond to a school crisis, according to a survey from LifeChanger of the Year that was conducted in partnership with the National Coalition for Safe Schools.
The survey—which polled hundreds of teachers, administrators and other school employees from across the U.S.— shows that, while the majority of educators say their schools are taking measures to combat violence, they still want more to be done.
Respondents indicated that their schools have implemented staff training (85.54%), conducted mock drills (81.85%), hired school resource officers (60.62%) and included social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom (43.69%) in order to address school violence.
When asked what more their school or district could do to improve safety, many respondents expressed interest in more training and preparedness activities. In addition to these ‘hard’ approaches that only prepare them to respond to a crisis, respondents would like to see more focus on ‘soft’ approaches that proactively seek to prevent violence.
“The tangible part of school safety--locked outer doors, better sign-in processes, badges that show someone has been approved to be in the building--have been fixes that are needed. What is more challenging, though, is trying to help change the students' attitudes towards themselves and each other,” said Mary S., a high school teacher from Kentucky.
An increased interest in proactive approaches may be driven by the fact that 82% of respondents have noticed a negative change in the mental health of their students over the course of their career. This negative change was described as students becoming more withdrawn and hostile, less empathetic, less social and increasingly unable to manage emotions or demonstrate coping skills.
Many respondents also indicated that mental health is often overlooked or missing from the school safety conversation, and that more teacher and community involvement and open communication is needed. “It has changed the way I teach,” said Gwen S., an elementary school teacher from California. “We have to address emotional needs before academic teaching. They can’t learn if they don’t feel safe or are worried about something at home.”
When asked how they would define school violence, most educators said they believe school violence comes in many forms and in varying degrees. All of these forms of violence can harm the well-being of students and staff as well as their overall sense of safety and security.
James H., an English teacher from Tennessee, defined school violence as “specific acts of assault, theft, or vandalism directed at anyone or anything in a school setting (including cyber school communities). There are ambient violent behaviors which can include subtle forms of bullying, exclusion of others, or defiance among students.”
To help America’s teachers play a leadership role in bringing simple, effective approaches directly into classrooms and school communities, the National Coalition for Safe Schools (NCSS) has created a Back To School Safety Checklist. The checklist includes activities and resources that can help educators activate their voices, incorporate social emotional learning into daily activities, talk about school safety with students and recognize colleagues who are playing key roles in keeping school communities safe.
“Teachers have an essential role to play in keeping their students and school communities safe from all forms of violence,” said Mark Vondracek, President, Board of Directors, NCSS. “There is a tremendous amount of really good resources out there. We just need to get them into the hands of teachers so they can start having a positive impact in classrooms across the nation.”
About LifeChanger of the Year
LifeChanger of the Year—a national program that recognizes and rewards K-12 educators—is sponsored and run by National Life Group and the National Life Group Foundation. National Life Group and LifeChanger of the Year are founding sponsors and active supporters of NCSS, a teacher-led initiative that believes the best way to create safer and healthier schools and communities is to proactively address the root causes of violence and other negative behaviors.
During the 2019-2020 school year, LifeChanger of the Year will be giving special recognition to teachers, administrators and school employees who are playing a key role in keeping school communities safe through its LifeChanger Spotlight Award.
“If you know a teacher or school employee who is playing a key role in keeping your school safe, we want to help you recognize their efforts,” said Mallorie Manosh, Director, LifeChanger of the Year program. “Maybe they started an organization that encourages students to be kind or created protocols to prevent violent incidents from occurring on campus or teach respect and kindness every day by the positive ways they interact with and treat colleagues, students and parents. No matter what their approach is, we want to hear about it and share their story with other teachers across the country.”
There is no cost to nominate someone for the 2019–2020 LifeChanger of the Year Spotlight Award. The winner of this award will receive $5,000 to be shared between a $2,500 individual award and a $2,500 donation to their school or district. For more information, visit, lifechangeroftheyear.com/spotlight-award.
National Life Group
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National Coalition for Safe Schools (NCSS)
The National Coalition for Safe Schools (NCSS) is a teacher-led initiative that believes the best way to create safer and healthier schools and communities is to proactively address the root causes of violence and other negative behaviors. NCSS empowers America’s teachers to play a leadership role in bringing simple, effective approaches directly into classrooms and school communities that focus on the needs of the whole child and support existing curricula and policy. NCSS recognizes that school violence is not just a school problem but a societal one and invites all members of the community to join our cause. Let’s work together to soften hearts and minds so we don’t have to harden our schools and communities. www.notinmyschool.com.