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Seven Steps to a safer School


Generate Support

It is essential to an effective violence prevention program that the major stakeholders understand the rationale for the changes and feel a sense of influence and ownership.  These elements take time and require thoughtful, deliberate action on the part of the School Safety Planning Team.  Once potential responses have been identified in STEP 4, the team should undertake the effort to gather support and receive input. Consider the following procedures designed to foster stakeholder support:
• Present the recommendations to the faculty as a whole, and establish a series of discussion-input sessions to further clarify the plans and address potential barriers to implementation.  Make appropriate modifications based upon input;
• Bring additional faculty volunteers on board to assist in planning for implementation tasks;
• Inform parents through multiple channels and hold a series of discussion-input sessions. Solicit parent volunteers to assist in planning for implementation tasks as appropriate;
• Discuss the plan with student representatives as appropriate and solicit additional input;
• Engage in planning and discussion with community members and agencies who have both direct and indirect involvement in the plan, such as police, juvenile court, local clergy, and mental health community;
• Present the plan to the Central Administration and School Board and solicit formal approval;
• Send out a press release to the local media outlets describing the plan and provide a mechanism for community input.

Planning for Generalization

With any evidence-based teaching or skill training curriculum, there is initially a time when and where the program is taught (e.g., the classroom or the counseling group room)… then there is everywhere else and anytime later!  Understanding generalization or transfer of training means understanding that the insights and skills must transfer out of the time and location of initial training into the real world if they are to be meaningful to the students.  School personnel must do more than hope that this transfer will occur; they must actively plan for it.  Consider the following generalization tips:

• Train staff to notice and reinforce desired behaviors when observed on the playground, in the hallways, in the lunchroom, or elsewhere.
• Use the morning PA announcements to reinforce observed desired behaviors in a developmentally appropriate manner. For example, the middle school principal might say, ”I have been impressed with how well most students are adhering to our new policy about teasing. I am proud of each of you. Keep it up!”
• Use the same vocabulary as taught in the curriculum.  For instance, “Bobby, I noticed that you used, “stop and think” when Dana said that to you. Good work!”
• Encourage students to report times when they applied their new learning to authentic situations. For instance, ask: “Who used anger control last weekend?”
• Role-play authentic rather than made-up situations during training. 
• Take the training locale to other, higher risk locations such as the playground or locker room. 
• Use students in consultative roles in which they train others in the identified skill.  For instance, have the fifth graders demonstrate the skills to the second graders.
• Have “graduates” of skills training groups return to help train a new group.
• Hold “booster sessions” on a regular basis following formal completion of the program that revisit earlier skills and help students overcome barriers to their use.
• Enlist the support of parents, coaches, or after school program leaders by informing them about the new skills and teaching them how to observe and reinforce them in their environments. 

See the Guidelines for Generalization for more specific tips on what trainers can do before, during and after training in order to increase the likelihood of transfer and maintenance of the intervention effects.


• Provide sufficient time for readying the staff and completing recommended training.

• Gather broadly-based support and input with all major stakeholders through multiple opportunities and channels.

• Consider all issues associated with the implementation, integrity, including proper training and execution of the activity.

• Build in monitoring procedures to assure that the program is being put into practice correctly.

• Build in generalization procedures for skills transfer into the real world in a way that they will be meaningful to the students.

Expanded Explanation:

One of the biggest reasons for the failure of well-meaning violence prevention programs to have the intended effects is a failure to adequately plan for implementation. Rushing into a new prevention curriculum or quickly establishing new policies without proper preparation can doom the best of intentions. The Problem-Solving Worksheet and Guidelines provides a Timeline section that must be seriously considered by team members.  Follow guidelines to:

Move quickly if:

The problem is of a nature that to delay would affect student safety and the action hypothesis is a relatively uncomplex response with limited or no budget or training implications (e.g., reallocation of staff duties, or simple procedural change without far-reaching consequences);

• Examples: Adding supervision to the playground, parking lot, or common areas; locking the doors; adding a greeter at the main entranceway; conducting random locker searches
Plan for a longer initial implementation timeline if:

• School board or central administration approval will be necessary

• Staff and/or parental buy-in is critical for success

• Staff training will be involved

• Major reallocation of staff duties will be necessary

• New curricula will be added

• Collaborative agreements with other agencies will be necessary

• Policy or procedural changes may be controversial and/or far-reaching

• Budget reallocations or new money will be necessary

• Examples: Adding an anger management or bullying curriculum to all classrooms; re-vamping the discipline policy; re-allocation of pupil services staff to behavioral skills training; requiring picture ID’s for everyone; enhancing teacher classroom management skills; establishing a parent training program; implementing an early literacy program.

Training and Preparation

If your friend gives you the recipe for her delicious chocolate chip cookies, but you leave out one of the ingredients because it was too inconvenient to go to the store, you would not be at all surprised if your family did not respond as expected when they ate them. Great recipes have carefully designated procedures that must be followed to produce great results.  So it is with evidence-based prevention programs as well.

The School Safety Planning Team must consider the issue of implementation integrity when recommending the adoption of an evidence-based program or procedure. Any individual prevention program is implemented with integrity when school personnel adhere strictly to the manual of procedures. The same procedures that drew positive results obtained during the research phase of the program must be replicated as closely as possible if the school hopes to obtain similar results.  When school personnel make short-cuts or revise the procedures for convenience sake, they run the risk of losing the potential for those positive results.  For the School Safety Planning Team, this means a careful examination of the required training and implementation standards for any new program. The time and cost factors associated with training must be considered in the overall financial outlay of the prevention program. 

• Does the program require certificated training by the author/publisher?
• Does the program require travel and overnight stay at the training site?  Are regional trainings offered at a closer location?
• Does the program offer a “trainer of trainers” certificate?  This option allows for a school to send one staff member for training, and he or she will then return and train others.
• Is there a certificated “trainer of trainers” in a nearby district who could be contracted for training?  Most commercially available programs will provide lists of certificated trainers.

Implementation integrity not only means acquiring the proper training, it also means putting the program into action in the approved fashion on a consistent basis.  For instance, if an evidence-based classroom anger management program manual calls for the lessons to be delivered once per week for 45 minutes, then every effort should be made to adhere to that schedule. Twice per week for 20 minutes or every other week for 90 minutes may sound like a reasonable adaptation, but it is a variation from the designated procedure that was demonstrated to be effective and, consequently, it puts the desired outcomes at risk.  Any variation from the manualized, trained procedures should be avoided to the degree possible, if the school expects to replicate the outcomes found in the supporting research.  When considering any evidence-based program, the team should ask:

• Is it reasonable to expect the designated school personnel to implement this program in the required fashion?
• Will supports be forthcoming to free up the designated personnel in order for the program to be implemented properly?  Adding additional preparation and curricular time to an already crowded teaching or counseling agenda requires relief from other responsibilities. How will this be accomplished?
• What are the mechanisms that can be built in that will monitor and ensure implementation integrity, i.e., that the program is being delivered as intended on a consistent basis?
• What ongoing supports, training and constructive feedback will the staff receive on a regular basis?



This web site has been produced by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators. The web site has been made possible with the generous support of the Robert and Renee Belfer Foundation and other supporters.
The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators
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