Addressing School Violence with Wrap-Around Care

Campus violence, including assault, bullying, fighting/mutual combat and terroristic threats, has been on the rise throughout San Antonio and across the state, according to the Texas Education Agency.

While it’s tempting to blame the COVID-19 pandemic, and the years of stunted social and emotional learning it caused, or generic mental health crises, it’s not that simple. The causes are myriad and multifaceted.

In the Express-News article “Pandemic’s lasting legacy: Still-rising violence at San Antonio-area schools,” campus and district leaders throughout the city shared different approaches they are applying to address behavioral issues.

Regardless of why school violence is increasing, a key to a long-lasting solution is providing a range of wraparound services that address barriers between students and a brighter future. This whole-child approach is rooted in intentionality. There is no successful one-size-fits-all approach; rather, each student must be supported in a way specific to their individual needs.

A child who is hungry may behave differently from a child who eats regularly. A family struggling at home may engage with their community differently from a family who feels supported. A campus with access to resources is going to have better outcomes than a campus that does not.

Communities In Schools-San Antonio, or CIS-SA, supports more than 200 schools across 13 districts in San Antonio and the surrounding area. Our school-based teams ensure students and their families are connected to caring adults and needed services, bringing community resources directly to schools.

In addition to academic assistance and enrichment activities, during the 2022-23 school year we spent more than 58,000 hours with students in one-on-one workshops and team-building groups, and with guest speakers, ultimately providing 133,370 services to help students with emotion-regulation techniques, character education, social skills building and conflict resolution.

Our site coordinators connected 4,762 families with counselors and social workers to ensure the home is a healthy, nurturing environment where the student and family can feel safe. And our licensed clinicians spent 9,275 hours teaching students positive ways to cope with anger and conflict resolution, as well as other strategies to keep them focused on school.

The impact is evident. Of the 11,432 case-managed students who received 122,163 service hours from CIS-SA, 85% improved in academics, behavior and attendance. These results share a common denominator: Kids have access to adults who can support their individualized needs.

All of us can play a role in supporting a child, whether as a mentor who helps them explore and pursue goals, or simply as a neighbor, friend or family member who is willing to listen.

Ultimately, children need more support and immediate connection to people they can trust. Together, we can ensure they feel seen, heard and valued. San Antonio-area kids, families, schools and communities will all be better for it.

Jessica Weaver is CEO and president of Communities In Schools of San Antonio.

San Antonio Express-News Article