Social Workers Might Be the Key to Stopping School Violence

Sep 24, 2019 by

School violence is a major issue in the United States, with shootings and other incidents of violence becoming much more frequent in recent years. It’s gotten so bad that many schools now run “active shooter drills” and parents are buying bulletproof backpacks for their children.

Researchers have yet to figure out why the problem is getting worse. Moreover, they have yet to come up with a solution. It’s an urgent problem that needs to be addressed right away, but legislation lags far behind the needs of schools and students.

Could social workers be part of the solution? Here’s what we know about why shootings occur and how social workers can help.

The Scope of the Problem

To understand the scope of school violence in the United States, you just have to look at the statistics. In 2018, there were 97 school shooting incidents, far outpacing the second most violent year, 2006, which documented 59 incidents. Understandably, many teachers, parents, and students are now extremely worried about violence coming to their classrooms.

Most school shootings are perpetrated by students who attend the school themselves. Since 1970, there have been 702 of these incidents, which can occur for many reasons but often involve a student feeling like they have no one they can turn to. Students who feel isolated or belittled may eventually resort to violence if they feel that no one cares about them. 

Positioned to Help

Social workers are trained to deal with difficult situations like cases of abuse and relationship difficulties within families or mental health challenges in both children and adults. They help people overcome major challenges in their lives and are uniquely positioned to help identify and intervene in the lives of students who may become violent at school.

School social workers may be able to intervene in high-risk cases and work with students who are feeling isolated or bullied. Not only can social workers potentially spot early behavioral signs that could lead to violence, but they can work with administrators and students to prevent school shootings and help at-risk students manage their emotions and mental health.

When school violence does occur, social workers can also aid in recovery and help students heal from trauma. Prevention is the preferred role of social workers, naturally, but it’s also important to acknowledge the needs of students after a traumatic act of violence.

Social Workers Are Champions of the Community

Life is hard, and for many people, it’s far from smooth sailing. For healthy communities, we need social workers who are trained to assist people of all ages through difficult times in their lives. Social workers are often underappreciated, but they are champions of their communities and they are dedicated to helping people live better lives.

Social workers are there to help in many different settings, from schools to homeless shelters to nursing homes. People in crisis or in transition have different needs, and some social workers specialize in different types of counseling, like helping children to overcome abuse and neglect or helping elderly people meet their social and psychological needs. They may also help those who are trying to get back on their feet after being homeless or recovering from addiction.

Without social workers, many more people would be struggling to cope with their daily lives. To ensure safe and healthy communities, we need to understand the value of social work and appreciate those who intervene in the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.

A Call to Action

The number of school shootings in 2018 should serve as a call to action. We need to start by putting more social workers into schools to ensure that at-risk students don’t slip through the cracks. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is urging schools to bring more trained professionals to address the public health crisis of increased school shootings.

Satisfactory ratios are 1:250 students or even 1:50 for schools with higher needs. Very few schools in the United States meet these ratios, with many citing budget constraints. However, it is vital for school districts to bring on more social workers all over the country as soon as possible to help reduce these tragic and horrifying cases of violence that often end in the deaths of students and teachers.

Social Workers: Part of the Solution

There are all kinds of different threats and different levels of violence that occur in a school setting. While restricting access to guns may be part of the answer to school shootings, it’s important to address the underlying causes as well. Students who feel desperate and angry may start to feel like violence is the only way they can express how they feel. No student should ever feel that isolated or get to the point of bringing a gun to school.

Social workers can help. They are compassionate and caring, and they are equipped to help students in crisis. Having trained professionals standing by to help will play a key role in ending our national crisis of school violence and help students feel safer on school grounds.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.