Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide

Schools are almost always safe places. Even so, recent school shootings created a widespread demand to improve school safety. In 1998, President Clinton directed the departments of Education and Justice to develop a guide to help “adults reach out to troubled children, quickly and effectively.” The result was Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools (also called the Early Warning Guide). Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of Education Richard Riley said the guide “should be seen as part of an overall effort to make sure that every school in this nation has a comprehensive violence prevention plan in place.”

The Early Warning Guide has been copied, downloaded, reprinted, and distributed to agencies, organizations, and every school across the nation. The Early Warning Guide is a good example of effective collaboration between federal agencies, national associations, and researchers from various disciplines, as well as practitioners, family members, and youth. Hundreds of people worked together to design, develop, review, and disseminate the research-based and practice-validated Early Warning Guide.

The purpose of this Action Guide is to help schools develop and implement a comprehensive violence prevention plan grounded in the principles of the Early Warning Guide. This Action Guide is based on evidence-based practices. Effective action plans are strategic, coordinated, and comprehensive. They involve schoolwide prevention, early intervention, and intensive services for students with significant emotional or behavioral needs, including those with disruptive, destructive, or violent behaviors.

Prevention, early intervention, and intensive services can reduce violence and other troubling behaviors in schools. Understanding the causes of violence and knowledge of evidence-based practices can help schools identify and address warning signs early so children can get the help they need before it is too late. The most promising prevention and intervention strategies extend beyond the schoolhouse door; they include administrators, teachers, families, students, support staff, and community agency staff. Everyone’s support is important to safeguard our children.