The Untold Threat of Interpersonal Violence in Schools

Debra K. Kirby + Steve Stanford

Interpersonal violence, also known as domestic violence, makes up a significant percentage of workplace violence

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On April 14, 2022, teachers and staff at an elementary school in the Bronx, New York, were preparing for the final day of instruction before the holiday break. According to the New York Police Department, at approximately 7:40 a.m. before students arrived on campus, a 23-year-old man armed with a sharp object entered the building and began hitting his ex-girlfriend, a school guidance counselor.

The school safety agent and a fifth-grade teacher quickly intervened. They chased the assailant out of the building, noting the make, model and license plate of the attacker’s vehicle, which helped the police quickly apprehend him. The agent, teacher and guidance counselor were all injured during the encounter.

Parents, school staff, and students expect schools to be safe spaces where children can socialize and learn, but violent incidents are a persistent threat. While school shootings like the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School may receive the most media attention, it is also important to consider the risk of interpersonal violence (IPV) invading the workplace. Such classifications matter as they drive strategies and decisions regarding education, prevention, and intervention.

Measuring the Risk of Interpersonal Violence in the Workplace

Interpersonal violence, also known as intimate partner or domestic violence, makes up a significant percentage of workplace violence incidents. Ultimately, 20 to 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men have experienced or will experience violence in their intimate relationships, which means that someone in your workplace is likely being emotionally, mentally or physically abused by an intimate partner. More than half of workers who have had any experience with domestic violence in their lifetime report the violence continuing into the workplace.

In a 2013 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 16 percent of organizations reported having a domestic violence incident in the previous five years. IPV is of particular concern in educational settings where almost 75 percent of K-12 teachers are women, thereby increasing the risks of IPV occurring in the workplace. Despite the prevalence and severity of incidents of interpersonal violence in the workplace, the same SHRM survey revealed that 65 percent of companies did not have a formal workplace domestic violence prevention policy. Only 20 percent offered training on domestic violence.

Workplace Violence Prevention Programs Mitigate the Risk of Interpersonal Violence

Robust programs help ensure the safety of all employees and visitors. Incidents such as the one occurring in the Bronx reinforce the need for schools and other workplaces to have workplace violence prevention programs and policies and provide training to ensure safety goals are met.

Critical program elements, such as policies, training, reporting and threat management systems, create an informed and observant workforce. By providing employees training on potential violence risks and teaching them how to report concerns, employees are more likely to help keep the workplace safe by reporting incidents and threats.

Does your company need help taking steps to implement or improve a workplace violence prevention program? Jensen Hughes is an industry leader in workplace violence prevention, specializing in behavioral case management services and threat assessments for companies across all industries. Click here to learn more about we can help mitigate the risk violence in your organization.

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