Educational leaders engage in school violence prevention to deter school shootings, assaults, bullying, theft, and property damage. Although schools remain largely safe places for most students and staff members, student and staff victimisation occurs. To address school violence in its many forms, educational leaders must pursue a comprehensive school safety approach that incorporates these elements: monitoring and mapping risk; universal, targeted, and intensive student supports; safe environmental design; security measures; threat assessment; and crisis preparation (Kerr & King, in press).

Monitoring refers to assessing school climate (Wang & Degol, 2016) and evaluating prevention or intervention efforts using multiple data sources; engaging staff and students in mapping school floor plans identifies vulnerable times and spaces (Astor et al., 2004). Universal, targeted, and intensive student supports refer to multi-tiered supports for all students (universal) as well as those for students who are at risk (targeted) or are already engaging in harm towards others (intensive). Two examples include Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) (Horner & Sugai, 2015) and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus & Limber, 2010). These evidence-based programmes support effective school threat assessment, a multidisciplinary team process to assess threatened violence or other harm (Modzeleski & Randazzo, 2018). When effective supports follow, threat assessment can not only predict but also prevent violence (Cornell, 2018).

Safe environmental design encompasses architecture, controlling access to the building, landscaping, and facility maintenance. A related component is security measures, which includes technology to detect, monitor, or communicate risk, as well as the employment of security or school police officers. Research on the effectiveness of security measures is inconclusive, which creates a dilemma for educational leaders (Jonson, 2017). Moreover, the leader must engage students, families, and other community members to assess school conditions and share in school safety decision-making (Marachi et al., 2013).

Lastly, crisis preparation includes protocols, training, and communications to protect staff and students should a violent event occur. Although educational leaders experience public pressure to focus on school shootings, crisis response preparation should not focus exclusively on rare mass casualty events, overlooking more common, small-scale incidents (Kerr & King, in press). Fortunately, the urgency of school violence has pressed scholars and public officials worldwide to translate their knowledge into recommendations and resources to guide the educational leader’s daunting work.