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Volume 10, Number 3
May/June 1994

Research Raises Troubling Questions About Violence Prevention Programs


It's every principal's nightmare. The sound of gunshots. The phone call imploring you to rush to the cafeteria where an argument that began on the street has exploded. And when the ambulance and the police have gone there will be television cameras, microphones, and reporters' questions, a deluge of phone calls from frightened parents, and an emergency school board meeting. The question you will hear over and over is "What are you going to do to make sure this does not happen again?"

An increasing number of public and private school administrators face situations involving serious violence perpetrated by and against adolescents. School officials are responding by adding violence prevention programs—often a commercially available "off-the-shelf" package—to their schools' already overcrowded curricula. But few administrators under pressure to "do something" about violence have the resources or the expertise to assess the extent of their school's violence problem, to judge whether the program they have chosen is appropriate for their students, or to find evidence that the program actually works. In fact, researchers are beginning to question whether the most commonly used school-based programs for violence prevention and conflict resolution actually do what they are supposed to do.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

S. Cohen and R. Wilson-Brewer. Violence Prevention for Young Adolescents: The State of the Art of Program Evaluation.

Options. A quarterly newsletter available from the CSN Adolescent Violence Prevention Resource Center, Education Development Center, 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02158-1060.

A. Reiss and J. Roth, eds. Understanding and Preventing Violence. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993.

R. Slaby et al. Early Violence Prevention: Tools for Teachers of Young Children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, in press.

N. Tobler. "Drug Prevention Programs That Can Work: Research Findings." Journal of Addictive Diseases 11, no. 3 (1992): 1-28.

P. Tolan and N. Guerra. What Works in Reducing Adolescent Violence: An Empirical Review of the Field. Denver: Center for the Study of Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado, in press.

Violence Prevention News. Illinois Council for the Prevention of Violence, 123 S. Seventh Street, Suite 500, Springfield, IL 62701.

D. Webster. "The Unconvincing Case for School-Based Conflict Resolution Programs for Adolescents." Health Affairs 12, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 126-140.

R. Wilson-Brewer, S. Cohen, L. O'Donnell, and I. Goodman. Violence Prevention for Young Adolescents: A Survey of the State of the Art. (ED356442, 1991).