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De-escalating Potential VerbalPhysical Violence and Personal Safety. Karl R. Boland, Director The Center for Safe and Secure Schools Harris County Department of Education 6300 Irvington Blvd. Houston, TX 77022 Phone: 713-696-0770 Toll Free: 1-866-713-2343

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de escalating potential verbal physical violence and personal safety

De-escalating PotentialVerbal\Physical Violenceand Personal Safety

Karl R. Boland, Director

The Center for Safe and Secure Schools

Harris County Department of Education

6300 Irvington Blvd. Houston, TX 77022

Phone: 713-696-0770 Toll Free: 1-866-713-2343

different world
Different World
  • 1910 Classroom
different world1
Different World
  • 1916 Norwich Academy (High School)
different world2
Different World
  • 1920 Dawson School, Dawson, Navarro Co. TX
1939 Memorial School

The famous Dick and Jane books that taught millions of children to read were first published in 1931.

different world3
Different World
  • 1951 Hillsborough Elementary School
different world4
Different World
  • 1960’s Porter, Minnesota
is today s school world so different
Is Today’s School World So Different?
  • Maybe Not So Different (Duck and Cover 1960’s)
definition of violence
Definition of Violence
  • Violence is a general term to describe actions, usually deliberate, that cause or intend to cause injury to people, animals, or non-living objects. Violence is often associated with aggression. There are essentially two kinds of violence: random violence, which describes small-scale acts of random or targeted violence, and coordinated violence, which describes actions carried out by sanctioned or unsanctioned violent groups, such as war and terrorism.


survey of top school problems1
Survey of Top School Problems

Hoax discovered by Professor Barry O’Neill,

The School Administrator, 51, 8-11, 1994.

T. Cullen Davis, Texas Oil Businessman, invented the lists in 1981:

“They weren’t done from a scientific survey. How did I know what the offenses in the schools were in 1940? I was there. How do I know what they are now? I read the newspapers.”



what two significant events led to us being here today
What Two Significant Events Led To Us Being Here Today?
  • Columbine High School on April 19, 1999
columbine students
Columbine Students

Columbine Students April 19, 1999.


Columbine High School Shootings

  • April 20, 1999. – Littleton, Colorado, Columbine High School: in the most violent public school shooting incident in U.S. history two students, 17 and 18 years old, fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and detonated 30 explosive devices during their rampage. 12 people were killed; 24 students were injured, some of them critically, 160 patients had to be triaged, and more than 2,000 people were evacuated during the shooting. In the aftermath of the violence more than 60 other live explosives were found in and around the school.
columbine high school shooting
Columbine High School Shooting

The School Shooting Tragedy at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

columbine students and staff
Columbine Students and Staff

12 Students and 1staff member died during the Columbine tragedy.

safe at home
Safe At Home

World Trade Center Twin Towers September 10, 2001.

the world changes
The World Changes

The World Trade Center Twin Towers on September 11, 2001

where are you safe
Where are you safe?

October 1, 2006 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

amish school house shooting
Amish School House Shooting

32-year old Charles Carl Roberts enters the school with evil intent and as police storm the building he shoots and kills 5 girls, ages 7-13 and wounds 5 more before killing himself

October 2, 2006 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

delaware state university
Delaware State University
  • Two wounded September 2007
who is to blame
Who Is To Blame?

“School shootings and other forms of school violence are not just a school’s problem or a law enforcement problem. They involve schools, families, and the communities. An adolescent comes to school with a collective life experience, both positive and negative, shaped by the environments of family, school, peers, community, and culture….”

National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime

when seconds count
When Seconds Count!
  • When seconds count!


what if
What If ?
  • Have you thought how you would react if you where one of the staff in this incident?
  • How would you attempt to control the student use of cell phones during this event?
  • If your office notification method/device did not function, how could you communicate with the office?
who is responsible for school safety
Who is responsible for school safety?
  • Central Administration
  • Local Administration
  • Campus Police or Security
  • Other Teachers
  • YOU
warning signs of violence
Warning Signs of Violence
  • Social withdrawal
  • Excessive feelings of isolation or rejection
  • Being a victim of violence
  • Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Low school interest and poor academic performance
  • Impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, bullying
  • Expression of violence in writings and drawings
  • History of discipline problems
  • Past history of violent and aggressive behavior
  • Drug use and alcohol use
  • Affiliation with gangs
  • Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
  • Intolerance for differences, prejudicial attitudes
  • Serious threats of violence.
what stressors can contribute to young children becoming violent
What stressors can contribute to young children becoming violent?
  • A variety of social and economic factors can contribute to violent and aggressive behavior by children at home, in school, and in the community. In cases of workplace violence, we tend to look at the offenders to identify what "stressors" lead them to committing violent acts.  Ironically, we tend not to look at our juvenile population from the same perspective, particularly in terms of thinking about prevention and "early recognition" or warning signs.
stressors might include
Stressors Might Include:
  • Physical, psychological, and/or emotional abandonment by parents, adults, and significant others
  •  Domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and/or other severe family stress or dysfunction
  •  Lack of order, structure, and discipline
  •  Self-concept formation, peer pressure, need to protect reputation, and related developmental issues
  •  Alcohol, drug, and similar influences
  •  Gang, cult, or other deviant subculture attraction
  •  Pressure to succeed academically
  •  Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, and fear of failure
how can parents school officials and other concerned adults best help children
How can parents, school officials, and other concerned adults best help children?
  • Establishing ongoing, sincere, and trusting relationships with youth built upon regular, quality communications
  • Being sensitive to the stressors influencing children and providing timely intervention support
  • Being alert for, and promptly responding to, issues such as:

                      Detachment:  A lack of bonding and "connectedness" to others

                      Threats --- and the efforts to establish the means and opportunity to carry out the threats

                 Disciplinary problems in school and/or delinquent, criminal activity in schools or communities

              Unusual interest or preoccupation with weapons, bombs, and ` violent forms of "entertainment"

                     Abuse of animals, suicide threats or attempts, self-mutilation, etc.

  • Talk to children honestly and, if necessary, seek professional help BEFORE a crisis!
what can i do
What can I do?
  • Be observant
  • Watch students
  • Listen to students (Keeping in mind your professional obligations.)
  • Have a hall partner, (Class Change)
  • Be on time for duties
  • Help Line
what can i do1
What can I do?
  • Help Line available 24/7
    • 1-800-418-6423 ext 359Reports can be made via the web at
texas penal code criminal trespass
Texas Penal Code Criminal Trespass

§ 30.05. CRIMINAL TRESPASS. (a) A person commits an offense if he enters or remains on or in property, including an aircraft or other vehicle, of another without effective consent or he enters or remains in a building of another without effective consent and he: (1) had notice that the entry was forbidden; or (2) received notice to depart but failed to do so. (b) For purposes of this section: (1) "Entry" means the intrusion of the entire body.

(2) "Notice" means: (A) oral or written communication by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner; (B) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock; (C) a sign or signs posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, indicating that entry is forbidden; (D) the placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property, provided that the marks are:


texas education code trespass
Texas Education Code - Trespass

§ 37.107. TRESPASS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS. An unauthorized person who trespasses on the grounds of any school district of this state commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.


approaching strangers
Approaching Strangers
  • Observe for visitor badge
  • Identify self and offer assistance
  • If no visitor badge visible:
    • Indicate that you will accompany visitor to office so that he/she can sign-in and acquire a badge.
    • Walk beside or slightly behind.
    • If they refuse send for help and observe individual. (No physical Contact is appropriate.)
    • Note anything out of ordinary.
    • Physically hand-off to office personnel.
notorious killers
Notorious Killers

September 27, 2006. 53-year-old[1] Duane Roger Morrison entered the school building, claiming to be carrying a bomb. He was initially reported as a bearded 35-year-old man with a camouflage backpack[2] and dark hooded sweatshirt.[3] Morrison took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them, later releasing four. When police entered the classroom, Morrison opened fire before shooting hostage Emily Keyes in the head. The other remaining hostage escaped unharmed, and paramedics confirmed that Morrison had committed suicide. Keyes was pronounced dead at 4:32 p.m. MDT (23:32 UTC) at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Denver, Colorado after undergoing emergency surgery.[4]

Theodore Robert 'Ted' Bundy (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) is one of the most infamous serial killers in U.S. history. Bundy raped and murdered scores of young women across the United States between 1974 and 1978. After more than a decade of vigorous denials, Bundy eventually confessed to 30 murders, although the actual total of victims remains unknown. Typically, Bundy would rape then murder his victims by bludgeoning, and sometimes by strangulation. He also engaged in necrophilia.

In stark contrast to the brutality of his crimes, Bundy was frequently described as educated and charming. His friends and acquaintances would remember him as a handsome and articulate young man.

tools and strategies to prevent or de escalate violence
Tools And Strategies To Prevent or De-escalate Violence
  • Non-Verbal Warning Signs
  • Body Language Cues
  • Verbal Threats
  • Classroom Conflicts
  • Fights
  • Parents or Visitors.
  • Threat Assessments
non verbal warning signs
Non-Verbal Warning Signs
  • The “Stare”
  • Clinched Fists
  • Body Stance
  • Breathing
  • Color (flush)
  • Movement toward individual of interest
body language cues
Body Language Cues
  • Poor Eye Contact:………………………….... Dishonest, closed, unconcerned, nervous
  • Sitting Back in Chair:……………………….. Uninterested, unenthusiastic, unconcerned, uncooperative
  • Standing, Weight on Back Leg:…………… Same as “Sitting Back in Chair”
  • Arms Crossed on Chest:…………………… Uninterested, unconcerned, defiant, not listening, impatient, stubborn, defensive
  • Rocking Movements:………………………... Nervous, lack of self confidence
  • Frequent Hand-to-Face Contact:………….. Dishonest, deceitful, nervous
  • Touching and/or Rubbing Nose/Eyes……. Doubt, disagreement, nervous deceitful
  • Hidden Hands:……………………………...... Deceptive, guilty, insincere
  • Pencil/Pen Chewing:………………………... Lack of self confidence, doubt
  • Jingling Pocket Change:…………………… Nervous, lack of self confidence or control, deceitful
  • Drumming Table/Tapping Feet:…………… Nervous, hostile, impatience, anxiety, boredom
  • Head in Hand:………………………………… Boredom
  • Locked Ankles:………………………………. Apprehensive, deceitful, nervous
  • Crossed Legs:……………………………….. Defensive, closed
  • Palm to Back of Neck:……………………… Frustration, anger, irritation, hostility
  • Slumping Posture: …………………………. Nervous, poor self control
  • Frequent Blinking:…………………………. Nervous, deceitful, inattentive
  • Raising Voice:………………………………. Nervous, deceitful, arrogant
  • Shrugging Shoulders:……………………… Unconcerned, indifferent
  • Tight Lipped:………………………………… Nervous, deceitful, angry, hostile
verbal threats
Verbal Threats
  • Threats should not be ignored. However, if possible do not exhibit outward signs of fear. The threatening individual usually looks at the person they have threatened carefully for traces of fear or shock.
  • If possible attempt to depersonalize threatening comments.
  • Steps should be taken to protect oneself, such as attempting to isolate the threatening individual or calling in additional staff and security.
  • After a serious threat is made, an immediate notice should be sent out to all school administrators, school security personnel, teachers, etc. about the specific threat and the school’s response to the threat.
  • After a student has made a serious threat, special security checks should be required any time the student enters school campus. Friends of the student may also need to under go security checks.
  • Publicize to students the penalties for making a threat. Students must understand the seriousness of making threats and the consequences that will be implemented when a threat is made.
  • Utilize the buddy system which attempts to prevent assaults on campus.
classroom conflict
Classroom Conflict
  • Do not raise your voice.
  • Attempt to remain calm and rational.
  • Do not touch an agitated or angry student. (touching may escalate conflict)
  • Be aware of student’s personal space and do not invade it if possible.
  • In general, try to have the student remain seated to attempt to correct the student’s behavior. If student’s inappropriate behavior continues, have the student step into the hall away from the general view of the class. (If student refuses to comply and leave the room, remove other students from class room and seek assistance.) Otherwise, position yourself in door way to view both class and student.
  • Attempt to speak to the student privately to resolve the issue.
  • If needed, send another student for help. The student should be told to go to the nearest office or classroom to summon assistance from the administration.
handling fights
Handling Fights
  • Do not physically get in the middle of a fight or try to restrain fighters.
  • If possible disperse student spectators away from the fight.
  • Use your best authoritative, loud voice to let the fighters know you are there and you want the fight to end immediately.
  • You may use commands such as: "Break it up. Stop right there. Everyone back off. Move away from each other, now!"
  • If you know the names of the fighters, call them by name.
  • Take time to analyze the fight. You need to know if the fight just began, is it winding down, who is the aggressor, etc.
  • Obtain additional help from other teachers to stop the fight.
guidelines for dealing with agitated parents
Guidelines for Dealing with Agitated Parents
  • The parent was already upset--
    • Steer the parent to a safe place—an office area with witnesses.
    • Do not give him/her the impression that you can resolve the concern — stay neutral, but listen carefully.
    • Demonstrate empathy and allow the parent ventilate.
    • Maintain neutrality and let him/her know that he/she has been heard.
    • Plan for a method to obtain assistance if necessary.
guidelines for dealing with agitated parents1
Guidelines for Dealing with Agitated Parents
  • The parent was asked to come for a conference--
    • Arrange a meeting location with administrative or counseling staff present.
    • Forewarn staff of a potential difficult situation.
    • Remember a parent might feel threatened and perceive that something is either wrong with him/her or him/her child.
    • A parent might be defensive; be prepared, plan and rehearse what to say and how to say it.
    • Maintain control of your emotions and present a professional demeanor.
    • If you feel threatened, stop the conference and indicate that it will be rescheduled for a later time.
front office dealing with agitated parents
Front Office Dealing With Agitated Parents
  • Maintain a calm voice and demeanor.
  • Be civil and polite; use a normal voice. “Let me find someone who can help you.”
    • Call for another adult
    • Observe the individual
  • Keep your face front to individual.
  • To end the encounter and redirect the individual use “Let me get your name and number and I will have _____ contact you.”
threat assessment
Threat Assessment
  • 1. Identification of threats made by students.
  • 2. Evaluation of seriousness of threat and danger it poses to others, recognizing that all threats are not the same (e.g., toy guns are not dangerous).
  • 3. Intervention to reduce risk of violence.
  • 4. Follow-up to assess intervention results.


possible scenarios to think about
Possible Scenarios To Think About
  • Approaching a stranger
  • Front Office – conflict with parent or visitor
  • Agitated parent at a teacher’s conference.
  • Classroom Disruption - Student acting out
    • Refuses to leave.
    • Gets louder and leaves.
  • Limited English speaking parent.
  • Custody Issue (two parents)
likelihood of homicide at your school
Likelihood Of Homicide At Your School

What is the likelihood of a student committing

a homicide at your school?

• 93 student homicides cases in 10 years = 9.3/year

(1992-93 to 2001-02)

• 119,000 schools

• 9.3/year ÷119,000 = .0000781

• 1 case every 12,800 years


in conclusion
In Conclusion
  • Be part of the solution.
  • Be Observant – Look for people or things that are out of place
  • Be in the halls during passing time.
  • Be on time for duty.
  • Approach and identify strangers.
  • Report concerns immediately.
  • Listen to your students.
  • Practice a personal safety plan!
  • Remain calm
copy of presentation
Copy of Presentation

  • R1
  • R2
  • R3
  • R4 The National School Safety Center's Report on School Associated Violent Deaths
  • R5 by the U.S. Department of Education
  • R6 Dewey G. Cornell, Ph.D.
  • R7
  • R8
  • R9
  • R10 Sound Clip Bucky Covington - A Different World
where can i learn more
Where can I learn more?

You can learn more about school safety by contacting:

The Center for Safe and Secure Schools

Harris County Department of Education

6300 Irvington Blvd. Houston, TX 77022

Phone: 713-696-0770 Toll Free: 1-866-713-2343



Karl R. Boland, Director

The Center for Safe and Secure Schools

Harris County Department of Education

6300 Irvington Blvd. Houston, TX 77022

Phone: 713-696-0770 Toll Free: 1-866-713-2343

Alan Ward

Educational and Technology Consultant