Chain of Violence

26 January 2023

In an effort to save Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider weaves the phrase, “SOME PIG” into her web. Lurvy finds the message while feeding the other animals. He runs to Mr. Zuckerman and excitedly tells him of this miracle. Both men go to Mrs. Zuckerman and excitedly explain that “Our pig is completely out of the ordinary.” 

Mrs. Zuckerman states, “It seems to me to that you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.”

For this fleeting moment in the book Charlotte ’s Web, there is a chance that everyone will recognize the real hero of the story—Charlotte. Instead, Lurvy and Mr. Zuckerman won’t hear of it and insist that it’s not the spider but the pig who is special!

From that point on, all the characters see Wilbur as the hero of the story.

I feel like the same thing has happened with school safety.

If you poll a thousand people and ask them to tell you what comes to their mind first when you mention school safety…they will say lockdowns and active shooter drills. 

These drills are not really school safety. They are our last-ditch effort to end the Chain of Violence.

What is the Chain of Violence?

Using violence against an innocent person is a failure. Sometimes that failure is influenced by factors outside a person’s control and sometimes it is a willful and purposeful decision. Either way, using violence is a failure. The Chain of Violence is a cascade of failures where a person first accepts the idea to use violence, plans to use violence, prepares to use violence, and finally uses violence against innocent people.

School safety is a series of proactive measures, techniques, and responses to end or stop that downward spiral of failures at the earliest opportunity.

For example, a student threat assessment is not simply an assessment of a student’s proclivity to use violence. It is a highly concentrated and coordinated effort to break the chain of violence.

Lockdown drills and active shooter drills are used only after every other school safety effort has failed.

It’s not that they are not valuable. Far from it. Anyone who has ever heard me present or read my blogs will see that I am a huge proponent of speeding up lockdowns. But they can’t be our only focus or even our primary effort. Yes, they must be perfected. However, engagement, character development, positive interactions, greeting the kids, great classroom instruction, helping in the halls during class changes, outside during morning arrival and dismissal, developing relationships, tracking student trajectories, immediately course correcting unwanted behaviors, boosting student growth—are all school safety efforts!

teacher with students

(This is school safety too!)

If done well, consistently, and energetically, it will end the Chain of Violence before it even starts and therefore prevent the horrible necessity of sometimes having to take a life to save life.

What I worry is that when it comes to school safety, we’re seeing Wilbur and missing Charlotte. That we’re losing sight of the real hero of the story which is breaking the Chain of Violence at its absolute earliest opportunity (school safety) and instead we’re concentrating on the end of the chain of violence (lockdowns/active shooter drills).

All school safety efforts require effort, resources, energy, and commitment. I would never tell you to neglect perfecting your crisis drills, but try not to lose sight that the primary goal in school safety is to end the Chain of Violence before it can even start.


If you want to learn more ways that you can break the chain of violence, schedule your own Safe & Loved enhanced school vulnerability & culture plan or a leadership professional development for your school or district.

Call or email with questions or to find out how we can help.

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