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    Posted April 9, 2014 by
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    Preventing the Next School Attack


    Violent behaviors do not come out of the blue. There is a group of children that are at higher risk for school violence than others. Youth with violent behaviors have been truant, disciplined, suspended, and expelled from school more often than other children. They also often come from homes or communities where violence is a regular occurrence. They are more often delinquent and have delinquent peers. They or their family members often have mental health and/or substance abuse issues.


    For example, a 2009 study of violent youth in Baltimore, MD (Baltimore Sun, 9-1-2009) determined the following:
    • Violent youth had been referred to Mental Health services as early as 4 years old
    • First problems were seen in school as early as Kindergarten
    • 48% of families of violent youth were first reported to Social Services for child abuse or neglect when the child was 6.6 years
    • 92% of violent youth had histories of chronic truancy
    • 62% had been expelled or suspended from School
    • Their first contact with juvenile services/ law enforcement was at 13.6 years


    If I were going to look for a way to reduce the risk of a young person committing a violent act, I would look at the group that had the majority of the above characteristics. Then I would do a Family Assessment to determine problems and strengths within the family that can help build resiliency and reduce stress on the young person and the family. This family assessment and a Risk Reduction Plan would be mandatory for every truant, expelled or suspended student and those referred to Social Services and Juvenile Services. Parents would be mandated to participate. All agencies involved with the family would be mandated to communicate and coordinate treatment plans.


    The following are evidence based interventions proven to reduce the risk of delinquent and criminal behavior:


    • Family focused interventions
    • Wrap around approaches with services in the home
    • Multi-problem approaches
    • Multi-agency approaches with coordination among agencies
    • Case Management
    • Integrated care
    • Developmentally informed skill building
    • Trauma informed care


    These practices must be mandated treatments for youth at risk for violence because they have been proven to work for this population better than individual assessments and treatment, especially “talk therapy”. If we want to prevent youth violence, and I assume we all do, we have to change the way we approach the problem.


    Dr. Kathryn Seifert
    Author and Lecturer
    CEO, ESPS: A Behavioral Health Co.

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