What can we do to end #SchoolShootings? Give students the tools that can help them resolve conflicts peaceably and lead to success later in life.
These social-emotional learning practices have been found in hundreds of studies to reduce negative behavior and violence in schools, making schools safer while also increasing academic achievement. The guidance builds on what we know about how to increase school safety through “conflict resolution, restorative practices, counseling and structured systems of positive interventions.” The guidance also provides research-based resources to address students’ mental health needs, as well as proven practices that make students feel more connected to school and part of a community, so they are less likely to engage in negative and harmful behavior.
Indeed, school exclusion, without these supports, can exacerbate a bad situation. In the Parkland case, the fact that Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from school may have contributed to driving an angry young man who felt isolated to take out his frustration and anger by killing students and staff at his former school. In theory, zero-tolerance policies deter students from violent or illegal behavior because the punishment for such a violation is harsh and certain. However, research shows that such policies ultimately increase illegal behavior and have negative effects on student academic achievement, attainment, welfare, and school culture.
Numerous studies have suggested an association between exclusionary discipline practices and an array ofserious educational, economic and social problems, including school avoidance and diminished educational engagement; decreased academic achievement; increased behavior problems; increased likelihood of dropping out; substance abuse; and involvement with juvenile justice systems. All of these problems are costly to the victims and to our society. They drive up the public costs associated with the aftermath of violence, substance abuse counseling, unemployment or underemployment, policing and the justice system, and much, much more.
And in our schools, we need to continue the work done by many states that are pursuing educative approaches to school safety and student success by reducing school exclusions and leveraging initiatives that strengthen students’ social-emotional skills, mental health supports, and sense of safety and belonging. If we genuinely want to ensure safer schools, we should follow the evidence about what works, rather than jeopardizing lives with ideological battles.