Sprague, J., Walker, H., Sowards, S., Van Bloem, C., Eberhardt, P., & Marshall, B. (in press). Sources of Vulnerability to School Violence: Systems-Level Assessment and Strategies to Improve Safety and Climate. National Association of School Psychologists.


Most schools in the U.S. are relatively safe places for children, youth, and the adults who teach and support them (U.S. Departments of Justice and Education 1999, Annual Report on School Safety). In fact, notwithstanding the disturbing reports of violence (e.g., mass school shootings, murder, assault) in our schools during the past decade, they are becoming relatively safer in light of a number of key indicators to be presented herein. However, the fears about personal safety of students, teachers, parents, and community members are real and need to be addressed. It also is true that some schools have serious crime and violence problems and many schools are having to deal with more serious problem behaviors (e.g. bullying, harassment, victimization, drug and alcohol abuse, the effects of family disruption, poverty, and so on) (Kingery, 1999). An understanding of the complex, interconnecting relations and factors affecting the safety and climate of schools is necessary for (1) identifying antisocial and violent youth early in their school careers and, (2) developing and implementing effective interventions in the contexts of schools, communities and families.

This chapter addresses the growing problem of antisocial behavior occurring within the context of schooling and describes methods to assess its impact on the dimensions of school safety, effectiveness, and ecology. We outline a model of school, neighborhood and family assessment based on four sources of vulnerability or risk to school safety and illustrate the potential efficacy of the conceptual model using data from one community. Guidelines and recommendations are made regarding research-based practices, tools, and approaches in both screening and intervention. An approach for coordinating integrated approaches to school-based prevention of antisocial behavior is also presented and described, and the implications for school safety are discussed.