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Protection From Acts of Violence at School

Understanding And Protecting Our Kids From School Violence

About two years ago, one of the most horrific incidences involving teen violence occurred at a Colorado high school. It brought to the nation's attention the impact of teenage violence. Various high school students lost their lives that day and millions of teens began thinking: "What if this happened at my school?"

"It can get scary at times," says Kym, a 16-year-old high school sophomore from Columbus, Ohio. "Even though I didn't know any of the kids who died, it's scary to think that the only reason they died is because they went to school that day."

As a result of violent acts by students at their local high schools, school officials have begun to tighten up on security issues and have increased penalties when rules and regulations are broken. Metal detectors, security personnel, regular book bag and locker checks, as well as increased communication with parents are all measures schools have taken to protect staff and students.

But do the additional security measures make students feel safe?

"At first, I was mad about having my book bag and lockers checked," says Brian, a 17-year-old from Colonial Heights, Va. "When I watched one of the security guards take three knives -- one of which looked like a big hunting knife -- out of someone's locker, I realized it's really necessary. I mean, the kid who brought those knives could have hurt someone -- maybe me."

Children who act out in a violent manner do not necessarily do so with the intention of causing harm. Violent children may act out as a plea for help or attention or because they feel they have no other alternative, says Gary Chapman, author of "The Five Love Languages of Teenagers."

"Children who feel they don't belong -- whether at school or at home -- will internalize a variety of emotions," Chapman says. "These children may then experience a flood of emotions, which may result in inappropriate or violent behavior. At times, as it may be too much for them to handle, the behaviors may get out of control or go to extremes. They want attention. They need attention. And to them, negative attention is better then none."

Unfortunately, teens often believe they are invincible and that acts of violence do not and will not affect them, their family or their friends. Most teens don't take violent situations such as a "bomb scare" seriously.

"Nobody wants to believe things like [Columbine] can happen at their school," says Alec, a 13-year-old from Chesterfield, Va. "No one takes things like bomb threats or rumors of a kid having a gun seriously. Maybe we should, but what teenager wants to think about dying?"

So what can teens do to protect themselves, their fellow students, teachers and friends from acts of violence?

Recent episodes of teen violence in American schools have indicated that various cues and clues were offered before the events occurred. Teens aware of these cues have grown cautious.

"I know I tease people less," says Frank, a 16-year-old from Chapel Hill, N.C. "I heard on the news during the Columbine thing that a couple of guys were killed because they had teased and harassed one of the boys that was doing the shooting. I used to tease people all the time, trying to be cool or tough or whatever. But I don't do it anymore."

Teens understand the need for involvement and early intervention to prevent potential violent acts. This understanding has reduced the number of potential violent acts. "I think more people need to get involved," says Chelsea, an 18-year-old from Chester, Va. "Teachers, parents and other students should take it upon themselves to watch for teens whose behaviors could lead to violence. These kids need help. They need help before it's too late and they either hurt themselves or someone else. I myself have reported two such incidences and helped protect a girl from being stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. She and I are very good friends now."

"I pay attention more," says Marcie, a 14-year-old from Mansfield, Ohio. "If I see someone with a knife or a gun, or even just acting violent by hitting lockers or walls, I tell someone. I don't care if the person thinks I'm a snitch or a tattletale -- I know what could happen if it's all ignored."

Teenagers know that violence is out there. They have become witnesses to what can happen when acts of violence get out of control. As a result, teens are becoming involved, caring, and offering help to those who need it. "I read somewhere that some say it takes an entire village to raise a child," Chelsea says. "Well, the way I see it, the villages are just bigger now, but the children are still there."

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