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Colleges teach future teachers to address school violence

University Business, April 2018

The ongoing wave of school violence has forced higher ed to enhance emergency-response training in teacher education programs. Arming teachers, increasing school entrance security and assigning armed guards are a few solutions being debated.

Some colleges now train future teachers to spot and assist troubled students before violent intentions become violent actions.

Along with crisis intervention, these teaching students examine mental health and learn to recognize signs of abuse, harassment and bullying, says Rosa Pietanza, a former high school principal and clinical assistant professor with New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

New York mandates two hours of school violence prevention training for education students. At NYU, professors use crisis situations from their previous education experience to prepare students for potential incidents.

Students learn how to spot troubled individuals, how to talk to them in various situations, and who to reach out to in orchestrating help. Responses to the professors’ scenarios get analyzed by a panel of experts, school counselors, youth development directors and health directors.  

“These professionals have a deep understanding of what the laws say, and how to navigate them,” says Pietanza. “It gives students the language of these situations.”

Confidentiality and reporting protocols are given close attention during these sessions. NYU teaching candidates get a firsthand look at today’s K12 climate during a six-hour school observation and panel with high school students.

The teaching students—who include future building leaders, speech pathologists and counselors—also analyze school safety plans and suggest improvements.

“Each student brings the lens of their particular specialization to the conversation,” says Pietanza. “School safety is such a large issue, but we teach the importance of building strong relationships between students and faculty as the best way to help troubled individuals.”