*information provided by Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette magazine (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
School violence has become the focus of intense attention in recent years. It can be subtle and go almost unnoticed, such as some bullying and verbal threats; in other cases, it can escalate to large-scale violent acts such as those witnessed at Sandy Hook Elementary School or École Polytechnique. While such serious attacks are rare, violence of any kind has the power to change the way we think about school safety.
• According to PREVNet, a Canadian network of researchers and organizations who work to stop bullying, the majority of bullying occurs in the classroom, on the school playground and on the school bus where children are most often together.
• Their research also suggests that in a classroom of 35 students, between four and six children are bullying and/or are being bullied.
• Without intervention, a significant number of youth who bully in childhood will continue to bully as they move through adolescence and into adulthood. From early adolescence, new forms of aggression emerge. Bullying diversifies into more sophisticated forms of verbal, social, homophobic, sexual and racial-based aggression.
• The 2006 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study in Canada reported that children who are involved in bullying often report negative feelings about their school.
• In a 2002 study by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education that analyzed 37 incidents of targeted school violence, researchers found that almost three-quarters of the 41 attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident.
• In a 2006 U.K. Home Office study of young people and crime, about seven per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds reported carrying a knife (most commonly a penknife) at some time in the previous year with less than one per cent carrying a gun.
• Students aren’t the only ones in danger of school violence. In 2014, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost seven per cent of teachers reported being threatened or physically injured by a student from their school.
• Of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history as compiled by CNN in 2014, four took place in schools or universities. Of those, most of the shooters were young men attending those institutions.
• Canada’s deadliest school shooting took place at Montreal’s École Polytechnique engineering school. The 25-year-old shooter walked into a classroom, separated the men from the women, and then killed 13 female students and injured another 13. He then committed suicide.
• Many acts of school violence take place weeks apart. A 2001 study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine revealed that 50 days after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Pennsylvania school districts reported 354 threats, skyrocketing from the one or two threats reported in the same period a year earlier.
• Research by Dr. Peter Langman in the journal Forensic Digest identified several warning signs that a student may be at risk for committing violence: direct threats that clearly announce their intentions, condoning or favourably commenting about a school shooting, and foreshadowing their attacks in the content of school assignments.
• According to Dr. Langman, clusters of warning signs — such as desperate depression, explosive anger and an obsession with weapons and violence — increase the likelihood of an attack. Taken together, they are a volatile mix.
• In Canada, the School Action for Emergencies (SAFE) plan is an electronic database that was released in 2007. It houses site-specific emergency response plans that help police and front-line workers respond efficiently to serious school incidents.
• To date, approximately 5,000 schools in RCMP jurisdictions across Canada are participating in the program.
• The SAFE Plan can be applied in any school event or situation that requires police deployment, including an active shooter, bomb threat or hostage situation. The plans are developed in close collaboration with all emergency responders and the schools.
— Compiled by Katherine Aldred
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