School Shootings, Locked-Down Campuses, and Fear: Moving From Control and Zero Tolerance Approaches Toward Rehabilitative Schools

School Shootings, Locked-Down Campuses, and Fear: Moving From Control and Zero Tolerance Approaches Toward Rehabilitative Schools

Christopher A. Mallett
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5200-1.ch002
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This chapter is first focused on how schools have become “locked-down” campuses because of the fear of school shootings and the impact of zero tolerance crime and student control policies that greatly expanded the use of school police (resource) officers and other related security measures. Next is a review of newer school management approaches using rehabilitative paradigms – to see how they impact students, school climate, and the campus environment. There are a significant number of approaches using evidence-based trauma-informed care and mental health programming (for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression problems) that can be used. Continuing to move toward rehabilitative campus approaches along with these primary, secondary, and tertiary trauma and mental health supports could help address today's “culture of fear” that is being increasingly recognized to impact many students in our schools.
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This chapter is concerned with the impact of school shootings and the institutional shift to locked-down campuses and significant security measures now utilized across the nation’s schools. This change that has taken place over the past twenty years has done little to improve school safety based on number of school shootings and deaths, but may unintentionally be harming students’ learning and sense of security. The fear of violence on campus and the disproportionate impact that school shooting tragedies have on our communities and our young people cannot be underestimated, and the way schools have become more prison-like in design may be the wrong prescription. In so explaining how schools got to this place today, this chapter looks at how policies and schools have changed through the impact of school shootings, perceptions of crime and violence, and zero tolerance policies; but next shows how new school management approaches using rehabilitative paradigms may significantly improve student and school learning, behavioral, and safety outcomes. This shift is recommended based on the evidence to date, but through the increased use of trauma-informed care and mental health interventions and programming, schools could provide an even more improved safety net for their students (and families). The most effective approaches to treating child and adolescent trauma (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression are discussed and examined.

School Anti-Violence Policies

School personnel have the best interests of young people as a focus, trying to teach each student effectively, guide them accordingly, and reach academic and graduation goals. However, almost all social policies have unintended consequences, as was the case with the policies that established a security and controlling regime within most public school systems since the mid-1990s. During this tough on crime juvenile justice era movement, schools were impacted by federal laws, state policies, and tragic school shooting events. The movement toward control and security in schools differed according to school size, location, and demographic makeup of the student body. However, in larger schools more anti-violence and security policies were established; urban schools established the highest proportion of these policies; and anti-violence polices were practiced more frequently both in the southern and western states, in schools with higher minority student populations, and in schools with higher enrollments in free or reduced price lunch programs (Arum, 2003; Kupchik & Monahan, 2006; Muschert & Peguero, 2010).

The expansion of school anti-violence policies across school districts nationwide has created an environment of social control that is more prison-like in efforts to maintain safety. Historically, there have been eras when student school violence was perceived as problematic, including the 1960s and 1970s where safety concerns were often inter-related with civil rights and school population shifts; this led to harsher impacts on minority students in school exclusionary policies (Children’s Defense Fund, 1975). However, the more recent shift toward discipline policies in the 1990s was exceptionally broader in the impact on schools and student populations (Hirschfield, 2008; Kang-Brown, Trone, Fratello, & Daftary-Kapur, 2013).

The 1980s and 1990s spawned fears and media reports of young people, often minorities, committing horrific crimes, gang violence, and concern for the emergence of the “juvenile super-predator” that were wholly disproportionate to the realty of youth violence. While youth crime has actually decreased across the country since 1994, state and federal legislation was enacted throughout the 1990s that increased punitive outcomes for many adolescents (Puzzanchera & Hockenberry, 2010; Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 2012). These policy changes and perception problems set the stage for the movement toward control and discipline within the schools. However, when this punitive paradigm was impacted by the fallout from school shooting incidents, movements toward school lock downs and more security-focused environments progressed across the country (Cornell, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS): A systematic approach for implementing proactive school-wide discipline and student expectations to improve school climate and address student problems and difficulties.

Zero Tolerance Policies: School district policies that mandate consequences or punishments for specific offenses that are intended to be applied regardless of the seriousness of the student behavior, mitigating circumstances, or situational context.

Trauma-Informed Care: A treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects (psychological, social, and biological) of all types of trauma.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A diagnosis of PTSD includes a history of trauma(s) event exposure that impacts the person and leads to avoidance, negative reactions, and changes to daily living.

Mental Health Disorders: A diagnosis by a mental health professional of a behavioral or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life. In the United States, diagnosis is through the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Trauma: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience; one that impacts the person either in the short- or long-term.

Restorative Justice (Practices): Student-focused interventions that try to change the perspective of young people who have caused problems, are disruptive, or have violated school policies, community expectations, or laws.

Columbine High School: The most widely recognized school shooting tragedy that occurred in 1999, with two students killing twelve students and one teacher.

School Resource (Police) Officers: Police officers who work on school campuses.

Social-Emotional Learning: Primarily a classroom-focused approach that includes quality instruction planning and a focus on the behavioral needs of students, monitoring of student engagement, and skills application to avoid escalating conflicts.

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