S. Bureau of the Census regarding the population count during the year 2000, indicated that approximately 18 million Americans continue to live in poverty. The rise in the number of homeless school-aged children during the past decade has become an issue of particular concern for many school administrators, teachers, and counselors who are confronted with the difficult challenge of trying to help these students realize their academic potential while they routinely come to school hungry and tired as a result of sleeping in their parents' car or in an overcrowded homeless shelter. In short, poverty not only makes individuals more vulnerable to a host of economic, educational, physical, psychological, and social problems, it also fosters insidious forms of violence that affect cognitive and emotional factors that undermine a person's sense of dignity and sense of self-worth
The violence of silence.
Not calling attention to the prevalent role of violence throughout our society contributes to the perpetuation of various cycles of violence. That is, failing to openly address the issue of violence in our world can be viewed as tacit condoning of violence. Simply stated, if educators are silent about violence, they contribute to the occurrence of violent acts through their quiet complicity.
Source: D'Andrea, 2004, p. 277.
V. Coalition service activities.
According to Hatkoff (1994), there are a number of models that can be used to address the problem of violence and sexual abuse in the schools and elsewhere. This author reports that, "Organizations across the U.S. have published excellent materials that offer suggestions and guidelines for preventing violence in the schools, as well as programs that can be incorporated into the curriculum. Numerous programs and national models exist that actively involve young people themselves in the fight against crime" (Hatkoff, 1994, p. 283). In order to provide the type of leadership that is required to successfully develop and implement violence prevention programs in school settings, four important questions that are relevant for such an undertaking need to be addressed:
What does the term violence mean in the context of planning school-based violence prevention programs?
Why is it important to support violence prevention programs in the schools?
What types of service components are included in a comprehensive school-based approach to violence prevention?
What training models have been effective in fostering the development and implementation of comprehensive violence prevention programs in school settings?
A review of the existing approaches suggests that the coalition service activities propounded by Forcey and Harris (1999) in their book, Peacebuilding for Adolescents: Strategies for Educators and Community Leaders, are most appropriate for this initiative and address the above-stated questions. In this regard, Forcey and Harris address the problems associated with violence in the schools in three different modes: (a) peacekeeping; (b) peacemaking; and - peacebuilding. The activities associated with each of these components are described further in Table 2 below:
Description of Coalition Service Activities.
Description of Service Activities
In the peacekeeping mode, educators use violence prevention activities to create an orderly learning climate in schools. At the peacekeeping level, educators use peace-through-strength strategies to create a safe school climate. In schools with high levels of physical violence there are often daily weapons searches, frequent detentions and expulsions, and the use of such devices as metal detectors at school entrances. Some schools have also installed extensive surveillance and warning systems to monitor students. Others have turned to such devices as school uniforms, (primarily to reduce theft of expensive clothing and jewelry), ID badges, closed-circuit television surveillance, and staff walkie-talkies. Violence prevention programs are also part of such peacekeeping strategies to reduce levels of youth violence. Their tactics frequently have an educational component as suggested by most of their names -- anger management, racism/sexism prevention, drug/alcohol education, gang discrediting, domestic violence prevention, and handgun discouragement. These programs help youths understand the consequences of violent behavior, with the hope that this will lead to the avoidance of self-destructive and cruel behavior.
For peacemaking, educators use conflict resolution techniques to teach students to manage their own conflicts constructively. Educators involved in these types of conflict resolution programs demonstrate to students how conflict can become a peaceful yet positive force that can encourage both personal growth and institutional change. Advocates of the peacemaking approach maintain that conflict resolution programs help young people, and school personnel as well, acquire a deeper understanding of themselves and others through improved communication. Generally a higher level of citizenship activity can result from young people becoming involved in creating a peaceful school climate. Students who learn about nonadversarial conflict resolution and its relationship to the legal system develop a heightened knowledge of peacemaking strategies at all levels of society.
With peacebuilding, educators teach students how the power of nonviolence can demonstrate to the young the futility of inflicting violence on others. This term refers to the general goal to create in all people a desire to learn how nonviolence can provide the basis for a just and sustainable future; the concept includes the goals of peacekeeping and peacemaking as defined above, but is much broader. A primary assumption as well as a fundamental orientation of a peacebuilding approach is nonviolence.
The three approaches are interrelated and build on each other, and all three components represent an integral and necessary part of a peaceable school environment (Forcey & Harris, 1999). To instruct educators, support staff and administrators in the application of these three components, a series of weekly in-service training sessions will be conducted to identify ongoing areas of concern and priority so that appropriate interventions can be developed and implemented. During these sessions, attendees will be requested to provide specific examples of current problems they are aware of so that specific effective interventions can be devised and shared, and innovative techniques will be encouraged. To instruct students, parents and caregivers, outreach efforts, school assemblies, newsletters, after-school "no-violence" pep rallies and other cost-effective techniques will be used.
Other techniques that will be used as part of this initiative will include conflict resolution seminars wherein students will be trained in effective conflict resolution techniques, and anger management workshops where students can learn alternatives to expressing their anger other than violent behaviors. If deemed appropriate, the educator in charge of the initiative can coordinate small counseling groups as well in which students can communicate the problems they are experiencing with violence, or where students with such behavior problems can identify the potential source of these behaviors and take action to resolve them. Finally, teachers may elect to include conflict resolution and violence prevention as a subject of study. This approach is congruent with the Center for Civic Education's recommendation for preventing violence and substance abuse in the nation's schools. In this approach, "Classes work cooperatively to develop solutions that they present to other students, adults, and authorities in their communities" (Center for Civic Education, 2002, p. 2).
VI. Expected results.
The expect result of this initiative is that by providing young people with constructive ways to address the causes of violence, there will be a concomitant reduction in the incidence and intensity of violent confrontations. In this regard, Shidler (2001) emphasizes that, "Regardless of the causes of violent behavior, educators' main goal should be to prevent the victimization of children at the hands of their schoolmates" (p. 167). Based on the foregoing, other expected results of the initiative envisioned herein concerns the following two issues:
There will be a reduction in violence and sexual abuse in schools and school-sponsored extracurricular activities; and,
The initiative will promote pro-social behaviors that provide students with alternatives to carrying weapons for protection or engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse. This approach is congruent with Weinstein's (1999) observation that, "Violence in the schools is just one more powerfully disorganizing and stress-inducing influence for decent young people at risk of substance abuse" (p. 40).
Center for Civic Education. (2002). Social Education, 66(5), 1.
D'Andrea, M. (2004). Comprehensive school-based violence prevention training: A developmental-ecological training model. Journal of Counseling and Development, 82(3), 277.
Forcey, L.R., & Harris, I.M. (1999). Peacebuilding for adolescents: Strategies for educators and community leaders. New York: Peter Lang.
Furlong, M., & Morrison, G. (2000). The school in school violence: Definitions and facts. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(2), 71.
Gabor, T. (1999). Trends in youth crime: Some evidence pointing to increases in the severity and volume of violence on the part of young people. Canadian Journal of Criminology,…