Violence-Prevention Guide, Drills Follow Year of Shootings

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Educators across the country will spend the summer learning how to prevent--or cope with--violence on campus, following a string of school shootings this past year. And a Washington-based research group has published a guide to help administrators spend their money on such programs wisely.

In a consumer-oriented review of nationally available violence-prevention programs, researchers at Drug Strategies grade 84 programs ranging from peacemaking to media-awareness seminars.

For More Information

Copies of "Safe Schools, Safe Students" are available for $12.95 each, plus $3 for mailing costs, from Drug Strategies, 2445 M St. N.W., Suite 480, Washington DC 20037; (202) 663-6090.

The programs were evaluated based on nine criteria considered by experts to be critical elements of effective anti-violence programs. According to "Safe Schools, Safe Students," released last month, successful programs include:

  • Activities that foster school norms against violence, aggression, and bullying;
  • Skills training, such as anger management;
  • The involvement of a student's family, peers, and community;
  • Physical and administrative changes that promote a positive school climate;
  • At least 10 sessions in the first year;
  • Interactive teaching;
  • Age- and developmental-stage-specific interventions;
  • Culturally sensitive material; and
  • Teacher training.

Using those criteria, as well as the cost of the program and ease of its administration, to tally the marks, the study found that just 10 programs earned an A; 49 received a C or D.

A program called "Aggressors, Victims & Bystanders," devised by the Education Development Center Inc. in Newton, Mass., earned an A for its "beautifully organized, teacher-friendly" middle school curriculum, for example.

But a high school curriculum called "Choosing Health High School: Violence and Injury," developed by the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based ETR Associates, earned a D for having a weak teacher-training component, among other factors.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is studying violence-prevention programs, but until its findings are published, the Drug Strategies report should serve as a guidebook for what looks promising, a CDC official said at a recent news conference.

"Our schools can play a significant role in preventing the outbreak of the kind of violence we have seen in recent months," Mathea Falco, the president of Drug Strategies, said last month in a prepared statement.

"But we must develop and use the violence-prevention programs that incorporate key strategies that are essential to success,'' she said. "Too many programs today do not."

In May, two students were killed and 22 others injured in a shooting at a high school in Springfield, Ore.

A month before that incident, a science teacher was shot and killed at a school dance in Edinboro, Pa., and in March, two boys allegedly shot and killed four students and a teacher at a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark. Students also were charged with multiple fatal shootings at schools in Kentucky and Mississippi over the past school year. ("Officials Take No Chances After Killings," June 3, 1998.)

Crisis Drills

While the Drug Strategies guide may help administrators choose classroom materials, school leaders this summer also are looking for ways to prepare staffs for potential violence on campus.

At Adams Middle School in Grand Prairie, Texas, several school employees volunteered last month to participate in a mock hostage-taking orchestrated by local police officers.

While school leaders may be prepared for such natural disasters as floods or tornadoes, many don't know what to do if they are besieged by an armed assailant, the officers said.

In the three-hour drill at the school, an officer played the role of an assailant who held staff members hostage in the library until police rescued them.

"They gave us tips like 'don't try to be a hero' and 'speak only when spoken to,'" said Michael Brinkley, the principal of the 700-student school.

"My goal here was to get a little knowledge to help staff in case something were to happen," he added. "It doesn't hurt to be prepared."

Several other districts are planning similar crisis drills this summer. In Pasco County, Fla., a police sergeant plans to meet with several principals to hone the schools' emergency-response plans.

School leaders in the Dallas and Seattle districts also are retooling their crisis plans, according to Ronald D. Stephens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif. And in Alaska and Kentucky, education leaders are conducting statewide school safety meetings, he said.

"The high-water mark for crisis preparation has been raised dramatically as a result of recent shootings," Mr. Stephens said last week.

"Administrators can no longer wait for a crisis to happen and need to do anything possible to preclude a crisis at their school," he said.

Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 14

Published in Print: July 8, 1998, as Violence-Prevention Guide, Drills Follow Year of Shootings
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