Talking With Students About Violence

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Cross Country Education
August 01, 2022 08:13 AM (GMT-05:00)
Educator Resources

Resources About Violence for School Psychologists, Counselors and Social Workers

School psychologists, school counselors and social workers are uniquely positioned to talk with kids about violence. Here are resources to help.

Helping Kids Cope

It is heart-wrenching that educational professionals even have to breach the topic of violence with children and teens, but it's the reality. Fortunately, school counselors, social workers and psychologists are well-trained in how to help individuals deal with complex issues and traumatic events.

If you’re a school psychologist, counselor or social worker, you're likely leading efforts at your school or district to help students make sense of violence. You're in an ideal position to talk with kids about their feelings, teach them how to protect themselves and each other and help them feel safer at school and beyond.

Talking about violence with kids is much easier with the right resources. Here, we cover mandatory reporting, planning, and using resources to talk about violence with kids.

Follow School, District, State and Federal Guidelines

When discussing violence with children and teens, educational professionals must heed all school, district, state and federal guidelines. Above all, school psychologists and counselors must adhere to their responsibility as mandatory reporters. If they suspect or know that any child has been abused or neglected, they must report this to their state's child protection agency.

Create a Comprehensive Plan That Covers Various Types of Violence

Having a plan can help psychologists, social workers and counselors ensure they're ready for any situation. For example, it is essential to consider different types of violence students may encounter:

  • Gun violence/school shootings
  • Physical bullying/peer violence/fighting
  • Gang violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Domestic abuse
  • Racial violence
  • Violence in the news/media

Schools should consider customizing their violence discussion and prevention plans. Planning should be flexible and ongoing and involve the input of all stakeholders. School psychologists, social workers and counselors can lead the charge, organizing meetings and teams to generate and agree on procedures. The following resources on school violence may prove helpful in developing a plan to talk about violence with kids.

School Violence Resources

Mandatory Reporting

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau – Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect – This site has a PDF booklet to help mandatory reporters understand their responsibilities. It covers who is required to report, institutional responsibilities to report, standards for making a report, confidentiality, summaries of state laws and more.

Talking about Violence

National Association of School Psychologists – Talking to Children About Violence – This resource from the NASP provides guidance when acts of high-profile violence happen at schools. They advise adults to reassure kids that they are safe, make time to talk about feelings, use developmentally appropriate explanations, cover safety procedures, limit exposure to TV coverage of the events and keep a routine.

Youth Violence

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Youth Violence Resources – This CDC page is a hub for publications, data and resources on youth violence. The site links to a vast collection of information, including how violence impacts teens' lives, violence prevention best practices, school injury data, juvenile justice, school crime and safety, gang information, children's safety and bullying resources.

Mass Violence

National Child Traumatic Stress Network – Mass Violence Resources – This is the resource library of the NCTSN, which is funded by the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Articles cover parent guidance for helping students after school shootings, psychological first aid, talking to children and teens when violence occurs, coping after mass violence, physical abuse resources and much more.

Mass Shootings

Florida School Counselor Association – Talking to Students About Violence and Mass Shootings This information from FSCA was curated for school counselors and has links to various resources on traumatic grief, healing, families of injured children, community trauma, self-care and disaster hotlines.

Racial Violence

American School Counselor Association – Responding to Racial Violence – The ASCA's page on responding to racial violence can help school psychologists, counselors and social workers address racial violence with students. Links address topics such as talking about race and racism, questions about shootings and other violent acts, connecting past to present, racial incidents among young children, anti-racism and more.

Child Abuse

American School Counselor Association - The School Counselor and Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention – This site from the ASCA covers the school counselor's role in preventing child abuse and neglect. In addition to mandatory reporting, ASCA says counselors should "understand child abuse and neglect and its impact on children's academic, career and social/emotional development; provide interventions promoting resiliency, healthy interpersonal and communication skills and self-worth; make referrals to outside agencies when appropriate; engage families in the school community; identify barriers and limitations that affect healthy family functioning and may lead to child abuse or neglect; identify instances of child abuse and neglect and respond on both individual and systemic levels; provide professional development in consultation on child abuse to school staff, families and the school community."

Crisis and Trauma

ASCA - Crisis and Trauma Resources The ASCA also offers professional development, webinars, articles and training on counseling kids in crisis, alleviating anxiety through counseling interventions, helping with grief and loss, trauma-informed approaches and more.


National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement – Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or Staff – This PDF helps crisis team members respond to students and staff when a school has experienced the loss of a staff member or student. It outlines how to set up crisis and grief counseling services at school, how to handle communication and outreach, how learning may be impacted and more.

Violence Prevention

National Parent Teacher Association – Checklist to Help Prevent Violence in Schools – This page offers 10 steps for preventing violence and includes setting limits, looking for warning signs, knowing when to intervene, staying involved, joining or organizing a violence prevention coalition, helping with a school violence prevention plan and working to influence lawmakers.

We hope these resources on how to talk with kids about violence are a useful addition to your toolkit. Don’t forget to bookmark the page so you can revisit when needed! Thanks for all you do to help keep your students and the school community safe and healthy!

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