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Volume 15, Number 1
January/February 1999

What Makes a Good School Violence Prevention Program?


In the wake of last year's string of school shootings, administrators everywhere are hearing from concerned parents. They all want to know the same thing: what are you doing to make sure our children are safe at school? Strictly by the numbers, school violence actually has declined in recent years, according to "Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97," a U.S. Department of Education report. Yet when it comes to school-related violence, perception speaks louder than reality. After all the media attention in the past year, many parents perceive the problem to be at an all-time high.

In response, administrators are trying every possible approach to inoculate their own schools against violence. On the playground, student mediators stand ready to model peaceful problem-solving skills whenever a conflict arises. In the classroom, teachers focus on anger management and peace building. During assemblies, videos jolt students with scenes showing the consequences of violent behavior. "There's no question that school administrators are feeling political pressure to do something," says Rosalind Brannigan, vice-president of Drug Strategies, a Washington-based research group that recently published a report grading violence-prevention programs. Most school leaders are inundated with "very sophisticated, slick marketing materials," she says. So when something comes across the desk that looks useful, "it's easy to end up making a mistake if you don't have any guidance."

Evaluating violence-prevention programs is inherently difficult, says Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, CA. "You're really measuring their success based on what doesn't happen," Stephens says. The goal is zero violent incidents.

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


For Further Information

For Further Information

P. Barton, R.J. Coley, and H. Wenglinsky. "Order in the Classroom: Violence, Discipline and Student Achievement." Educational Resting Service,1998.

Drug Strategies. "Safe Schools, Safe Students: A Guide to Violence Prevention Strategies," 1998. Available from Drug Strategies, 2445 M Street, NW, Suite 480, Washington, DC 20037.

D.J. Flannery. "School Violence: Risk, Preventive Intervention, and Policy," December 1997. Available from ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, 525 West 120th Street, Box 40, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.

S. Heaviside, C. Rowand, C. Williams, and E. Farris. "Violence and Discipline Problems in US Public Schools: 1996-1997." US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1998.

K.E. Powell and D.F. Hawkins (eds.) "Youth Violence Prevention: Descriptions and Baseline data from 13 Evaluation Projects." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Supplement to vol. 12, no. 5 (Sept./Oct. 1996).

A Volokh and L. Snell. "School Violence Prevention: Strategies to Keep Schools Safe." Policy Study No. 234, Reason Public Policy Institute, Los Angeles, CA.

Keep School Safe. Provides guidelines on developing safe-school plans and sample policies. Sponsored by the national School Boards Association and the National Association of Attorneys General.

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.