School Climate & Safety

Watching for Violence

By Rhea R. Borja — May 24, 2005 1 min read
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The television reality show “Fear Factor” has it. So does the animated show, “The Hulk” and even “Barney & Friends,” the Emmy Award-winning PBS children’s show featuring a singing purple dinosaur.

Students made this booklet as part of their anti-violence work.

What the shows have in common is violence—physical, verbal, or sexual—and sometimes a combination of the three, say some 6th graders in Minnesota who have produced a violence-rating guide to their favorite programs.

The 26 students at the 850-student Rush Creek Elementary School in suburban Minneapolis put together a project called “First Piece of the Peace Puzzle” that includes the guide, an advertising campaign, and a Web site to address violence in the media, said Douglas Greener, their teacher.

“I see lots of bad stuff going on,” he said. “[This] makes them feel power and more control over their future.”

The 24-page guide, available at www.1stpieceofthepuzzle.com, rates 43 of their peers’ favorite TV shows according to the number of violent incidents per episode. The students dedicated the booklet to the victims of the March 21 shootings at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minn.

The NBC show “Fear Factor,” for example, in which contestants have eaten a bowl of blended rats and navigated a maze of electrified wire, had 23 incidents of verbal violence and 37 of physical violence on average per episode, the students found. “Barney & Friends” had only one incident of verbal violence per episode.

Each student, along with one parent, watched two episodes of the shows to tally up the violent incidents, Mr. Greener said. The students defined violence as “any word, act, look, or gesture that intentionally hurts a person’s body, feelings, or things.”

The students also persuaded a local ad agency to copy and advertise posters they created on violence in the media in public restrooms in and around Minneapolis this summer. They also have asked local businesses to sponsor their project and have held a silent auction. They’ve raised close to $5,000 and will donate it to Home Free, a shelter for battered women.

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