School Violence

Grades 11 and 12 

Language Arts, English, Journalism, Social Studies

In this lesson, students will discuss their thoughts on their own safety in school and ways to stop continued violence.  Students also conduct independent research concerning the best ways to reduce violence in school.

Students will explore their responses to discussion questions concerning school violence. 
Students will conduct background research and identify resources on school safety.

Computer lab with internet access

Activity 1: (10mins) Begin a class wide discussion on school violence. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:

–What does our school do to prevent violence? 
–What role do students play in the responsibility to stop violence in schools? If so, how does this responsibility compare to the responsibilities of school administrators and other officials charged with making your school safe? 
–Would hiring security guards be the best answer to preventing violence in school hallways? Why or why not? 
–Do you think smaller schools make safer schools? What about city or suburban schools? Why or why not? 
–Why is violence such a popular media topic?

Activity 2: Divide students into four groups, and assign each group one of the following four topics: Fights, Bullying, Gang-Related Violence, and Gun-Related Violence.

Within the four groups, ask students to work individually or in pairs to research and write a news analysis addressing the best way to curb violence in local schools. Explain to students that they will be conducting research, identifying resources, and planning to answer the following questions (written on the board or copied in a handout for easier student access):

Scope of the Problem
–How often does this type of violence occur in your school? Where, and from whom, might you get this type of information in your school or community? 
–How does this rate of incidence compare to other schools in the region or the nation as a whole? 
–What statistical evidence can you find to measure the incidences of this type of violence in schools?

Causes of the Problem
–Why do students engage in this type of violence? 
–Why don’t other students engage in this violence? 
–What might attract perpetrators to this type of violence? 
–What warning signs indicate this type of violence is about to occur?

School Response
–How does your school address this type of violence? 
–What protocols, procedures, rules, and resources have been put in place to prevent this type of violence in schools? 
–How could your school’s response be improved to stop this type of violent behavior?

Helpful Resources
–Who are the individuals, agencies, and organizations in your school and community who can convey first-hand, detailed information about this topic? Create a list of names and contact information.

Next, ask each student or pair to compile the information they found into a comprehensive article.  Their article should conclude with students commenting on what they have learned so far about this type of violence, what they find interesting, challenging, or in where they are need of answers.

If time is available, or in the following class, have the student groups present their research to each other so all students learn what the other groups found.  

Students will be evaluated based on initial writing responses, thoughtful participation in class discussions, thorough and accurate gathering of research about school violence, and post-discussion. 

Lesson adapted from: NYT’s Learning Blog,