NCSSD Short Course: Creating the Conditions for Learning in Schools: Crisis Intervention and Prevention

What Is a School Crisis?

This professional development module addresses the prevention of and responses to crises that result from school violence. By school crisis, we refer to a sudden and unexpected incident, event, or episode of violence that:

  • Occurs on school grounds, on the way to or from school, during a school-sponsored event, or on the way to or from a school-sponsored event
  • Results in a highly undesirable, tragic or traumatic outcome such as bodily harm, psychological stress, or death
  • Directly or indirectly affects multiple members of a school community
  • Leads to severe and potentially, prolonged  instability and uncertainty
  • Requires school closure or a significant disruption in instructional time

Learning Objectives

By completing this short course, you will be able to:

  1. Recount and distinguish the essential intervention strategies to be executed after a crisis in the short term and the long term.
  2. Self-assess your school community’s preparedness for a school crisis.
  3. Outline key questions a school community should consider when assessing its risk for school crisis.
  4. Recognize the student, family, school, and community risk factors that can forewarn students and schools in need of targeted intervention.
  5. Specify the protective factors and conditions for learning that can prevent a crisis.
  6. Articulate six action items schools and school systems can execute to prevent a school crisis.
  7. Detail the 10 steps schools and schools systems should take to implement a tiered approach to crisis prevention.
  8. Suggest selection criteria schools and school systems might consider when exploring potential programs and interventions.
  9. Identify model school systems in which crisis intervention and prevention strategies are in place.
  • General Info
  • Strategies & Practices
  • Tools
  • On The Ground
  • Other
General Info: 

Creating the Conditions for Learning in Schools: Crisis Intervention and Prevention: A NCSSD Short Course (PPTX)

This short course is the first professional development module developed by the Clearinghouse. It is designed for school building administrators, teachers, and other school-based staff as a self-paced module that can be completed in 60 to 90 minutes, either online or offline as a downloadable PowerPoint presentation. This NCSSD short course builds off of the lessons learned from AIR’s decades of research and technical assistance in schools and school districts across the country. This NCSSD short course builds off of the lessons learned from AIR’s decades of research and technical assistance in schools and school districts across the country including technical assistance for Persistently Dangerous Schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, a project for the U.S. Department of Labor.

This short course has been made available as a set of presentation slides. The course script is provided in the notes section of each slide so that the module can be used by school and district personnel as a stand-alone course or used to support the development and/or delivery of crisis intervention and prevention training. The course is organized into three sections as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Responding to a Crisis
  3. Preventing a Crisis

Creating the Conditions for Learning in Schools: Crisis Intervention and Prevention: A Companion Guide (PDF)

The guidance shared in the NCSSD Creating the Conditions for Learning in Schools: Crisis Intervention and Prevention short course is summarized in this companion guide as a collection of action items and checklists. To support your implementation of these action items and checklists, this guide includes (1) lists of references and resources to support your efforts to prepare your school community for a healthy response to a crisis, as well as to prevent one from occurring; and (2) spotlights on model school systems in which promising crisis intervention and prevention strategies are in place. This document is organized by the sections of the course so that you can explore its contents as you step through the module.

Suggested Citation:

Amos, L. and Dwyer, K. (2016). Creating the conditions for learning in schools: Crisis prevention and intervention: A NCSSD short course. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Supportive School Discipline. 

Amos, L. and Dwyer, K. (2016). Creating the conditions for learning in schools: Crisis prevention and intervention: A companion guide. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Supportive School Discipline. 

Strategies & Practices: 

Youth Violence: Risk and Protective Factors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This resource shares research on the risk factors that can contribute to youth violence as well as the protective factors that can prevent it.

Teen Dating Violence: How Peers Can Affect Risk and Protective Factors
National Institute of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice

This resource reviews a multisystematic framework that explains the influence of peer relationships on risk. This report examines research that answer three key questions: (1) Do risky peer contexts increase the likelihood that teens will experience dating violence? (2) What roles do peers play in seeking help after teens experience violence? (3) Can group interventions or those focused on social contexts reduce the risk for teen dating violence? Findings support the conclusion that programs and policies aimed at preventing teen dating violence or promoting healthy teen relationships may be more effective if they take into consideration the potential ways that peers and peer contexts shape teens' experiences within close relationships.

Risk and Protective Factors: What Schools Can Do to Build Protective Factors
Children's Bureau

U.S Department of Health and Human Services

This resource lists a number of risk and protective factors that have been identified in relation to child abuse and neglect. It suggests specific actions that school personnel can take to promote protective factors and build resilience in children and families.

Risk and Protective Factors Associated With Gang Affiliation Among High-Risk Youth: A Public Health Approach
Dawn Delfin McDaniel

This report discusses risk and protective factors associated with gang affiliation among a high-risk youth population to better inform primary prevention strategies.

Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-Informed Classrooms and Transformational Schools
Maura McInerney and Amy McKlindon

Education Law Center

This resource defines childhood trauma and discusses trauma-informed approaches schools can implement to improve conditions for learning.

Helping Traumatized Children Learn: A Report and Policy Agenda
Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

This report summarizes the research from psychology and neurobiology that documents the impact trauma from exposure to violence can have on children’s learning, behavior, and relationships in school. The report also introduces the Flexible Framework, a tool organized according to six core operational functions of schools that can help any school create a trauma-sensitive learning environment for all children.

School Violence: Resources for School Personnel
National Child Traumatic Stress Network

This online resource provides guidance on responding to a school crisis, such as psychological first aid and information on early, intermediate, and long-term recovery interventions.

Promoting Protective Factors Factsheets
Development Services Group, Inc.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

This series of factsheets for practitioners explores the importance of protective factors in working with the following in-risk populations served by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families:

  1. Promoting Protective Factors for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
  2. Promoting Protective Factors for Children and Youth in Foster Care
  3. Promoting Protective Factors for In-Risk Families and Youth
  4. Promoting Protective Factors for Pregnant and Parenting Teens
  5. Promoting Protective Factors for Victims of Child Abuse and Neglect

Protective Factors for Populations Served by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families: A Literature Review and Theoretical Framework
Development Services Group, Inc.

This resource examines the research and develop a literature review on protective factors relevant to the Administration on Children, Youth and Families’ target populations. Information and resources gleaned from this examination helped inform this factsheet and aid the development of graphic models and a brief for researchers.

Protective Factors Approaches in Child Welfare Issue Brief
Development Services Group, Inc.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

This issue brief provides an overview of protective factors approaches to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. It is designed to help policymakers, administrators, child welfare and related professionals, service providers, advocates, and other interested individuals understand the concepts of risk and protective factors in families and communities and learn ways in which building protective factors can help to lessen risks for child abuse and neglect. 


Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools
K. Dwyer, D. Osher, and C. Warger

This federally funded guide offers research-based practices designed to assist school communities in identifying these warning signs early and to develop prevention, intervention, and crisis response plans. The guide includes the following sections:

  • Characteristics of a School That Is Safe and Responsive to All Children
  • Early Warning Signs
  • Getting Help for Troubled Children
  • Developing a Prevention and Response Plan
  • Responding to Crisis
  • Resources
  • Methodology, Contributors, and Research Support

2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections
Administration on Children, Youth and Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This resource offers support to service providers as they work with parents, caregivers, and their children to prevent child maltreatment and promote social and emotional well-being. The resource guide focuses on protective factors that build family strengths and promote optimal child and youth development. Information about protective factors is augmented with tools and strategies that help providers integrate the factors into community programs and systems. Agencies, policymakers, advocates, service providers, and parents alike will find resources in this book to help them promote these important elements within their communities and families.

Prevention Resource Guide
Health and Human Service’s Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Welfare Information Gateway

FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention

Center for the Study of Social Policy— Strengthening Families

This guide was created primarily to support community-based child abuse prevention professionals who work to prevent child maltreatment and promote well-being. Find information on protective factors approaches to promoting well-being, working with families using protective factors, engaging communities, and protecting children. The guide also includes tip sheets for parents and caregivers and activity calendars—in both Spanish and English. 

Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit
National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Research suggests that approximately 25 percent of American children will experience at least one traumatic event by the age of 16. A child's reactions to trauma can interfere considerably with learning and behavior at school. However, schools also serve as a critical system of support for children who have experienced trauma. This resource provides administrators, teachers, and staff with tools and materials they can use to help reduce the impact of trauma on children by recognizing trauma responses, accommodating and responding to traumatized students within the classroom setting, and referring children to outside professionals when necessary.


Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools
Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

This resource offers a guide to a process for creating trauma-sensitive schools and a policy agenda to provide the support schools need to achieve this goal. Grounded in theory and practice in schools and with families, the guide is intended to be a living document that will grow and change as more schools become trauma sensitive and add their ideas. The policy agenda calls for changes in laws, policies, and funding streams to support schools in this work. Together, the online learning community and the book are designed to complement each other, helping to build a growing and increasingly visible trauma-sensitive learning community.


Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T): Pocket Card for Clinicians
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

This tool assists clinicians in conducting suicide assessment using a five-step evaluation and triage plan to identify risk factors and protective factors, conduct a suicide inquiry, determine risk level and potential interventions, and document a treatment plan.

Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates
U.S. Secret Service

U.S. Department of Education

This resource reflects on information about prior school attacks to offer a process for identifying, assessing, and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence in schools. This guide represents a modification of the Secret Service threat assessment process, based upon findings from the Safe School Initiative. It is intended for use by school personnel, law enforcement officials, and others with protective responsibilities in our nation’s schools. This guide includes suggestions for developing a threat assessment team within a school or school district, steps to take when a threat or other information of concern comes to light, consideration about when to involve law enforcement personnel, issues of information sharing, and ideas for creating safe school climates.

Protective Factors Survey
National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention

This tool is a valid and reliable tool for measuring change in protective factors. It is a self-administered survey that measures protective factors in five areas: family functioning/resiliency, social support, concrete support, nurturing and attachment, and knowledge of parenting/child development. The survey comes with a downloadable instruction guide and database. The S-PFS, a valid and reliable Spanish adaptation of the Protective Factors Survey, is also available.

Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline
U.S. Department of Education

This guide draws on emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and associated action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline.


Getting To Outcomes® (GTO®): A Pathway to Results and Accountability
Shelley H. Wiseman, Matthew Chinman, Patricia A. Ebener, Sarah B. Hunter, Pamela Imm, and Abraham Wandersman

The GTO tool offers a 10-step approach to strategically planning, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining interventions.

Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools

U.S. Department of Education

This guide is intended to give schools, districts, and communities the critical concepts and components of good crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process, and provide examples of promising practices.

School Crisis Management: A Hands-On Guide to Training Crisis Response Teams
Kendall Johnson and Ronald D. Stephens

This guide aims to help schools develop contingency plans and train on-site response teams in crisis management. Updated with new information on the impact of crisis on children, detailed strategies and procedures teach how to manage any emergency that may hit a school. One hundred charts can be reproduced as overheads or copied for training sessions.

Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plan
U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal Emergency Management Agency

This guide provides recommendations in the development of plans not only to respond to an emergency, but also outlines how schools at all grade levels can plan for preventing, protecting against, mitigating the impact of, and recovering from these emergencies.  The guide translates lessons learned from the administration’s work on national preparedness to benefit from recent advancements in the emergency planning field. The guide introduces new approaches to planning and includes walking through different emergency scenarios to create a course of action for each objective the team is trying to accomplish.


On the Ground: 

Avoid Simple Solutions and Quick Fixes: Improving Conditions for Learning
David M. Osher (AIR), Jeffrey M. Poirier (AIR), G. Roger Jarjoura (AIR), Kimberly Kendziora (AIR), and Russell Brown (Cleveland Metropolitan School District)

Between 2008 and 2012, AIR conducted technical assistance work in Cleveland. The project concluded with a set of six recommendations (summarized above under “Action Items: Preventing a School Crisis”) to implement student centered policies such as transforming punitive in-school suspension to planning centers to which students can self-refer and learn self-discipline. Cleveland realized remarkable improvements districtwide. This report shares lessons learned from this comprehensive districtwide approach to improving conditions for learning.

Humanware Initiative: Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD)

In addition to the hardware it employs to ensure safe schools (e.g., surveillance cameras, metal detectors, x-ray machines, wands), CMSD is committed to addressing the humanware—the social and emotional aspects of school safety to head off critical incidents before they occur. The Humanware Initiative provides opportunities for all students to acquire social and emotional competencies through evidence-based programs that teach students to recognize strengths and emotions; manage emotions and behaviors to achieve goals; show understanding and empathy toward others; form positive relationships; work on teams; deal effectively with conflict; and make ethical and constructive choices about personal and social issues.  Additionally, the Humanware initiative advocates for best practices that ensure that all human resources in a child's school, family, and community function together so that students are learning in safe, supportive, and successful schools.

Code of Conduct Advisory Council: Boston Public Schools

The mission of the Code of Conduct Advisory Council (COCAC) is to provide an opportunity for parents, students, administrators, teachers, advocates, community partners, and other stakeholders to work collaboratively with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to improve disciplinary policies and promote positive school climate. In 2014, with support from the COCAC, BPS revised its code of conduct to reflect a commitment to the following:

  • Creating safe, welcoming school environments that prioritize student learning
  • Strengthening its tiered system of progressive discipline and student supports
  • Giving students the opportunity to make academic progress during suspensions and expulsions
  • Providing due process for students facing potential suspension or expulsion

Restorative Justice: Oakland Unified School District

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a set of principles and practices employed in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to build community and respond to student misconduct, with the goals of repairing harm and restoring relationships between those impacted. The RJ program in OUSD pilots a three-tiered model of prevention, intervention, and supported reentry in response to conflict or harm. The RJ program works to lower the school district’s rate of suspension and expulsion and to foster positive school climates with the goal of eliminating racially disproportionate discipline practices and the resulting push-out of students into the prison pipeline.

Trauma-Informed Schools: UCSF HEARTS Program: San Francisco Unified School District

The UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS) project is a comprehensive, multilevel school-based prevention and intervention program for children who have experienced trauma. The goal of UCSF HEARTS is to create school environments that are more trauma-sensitive and supportive of the needs of traumatized children. A main objective of this project is to work collaboratively with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to promote school success by decreasing trauma-related difficulties and increasing healthy functioning in students within SFUSD who have experienced complex trauma. Trauma-sensitive school environments will likely benefit not only traumatized children, but also those who are affected by these children, including child peers and school personnel.