Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy

Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy

Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy

Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy


School violence is a burning issue these days. This book provides an in-depth analysis of violence prevention programs and an assessment of their effectiveness, using data from observations, individual interviews, and focus groups, as well as published data from the schools. It is distinguished by its focus on the cultural and structural context of school violence and violence prevention efforts. Where most other researchers use quantitative measures, such as surveys, to assess the effectiveness of violence prevention programs, the authors of this book use qualitative research and ethnography to study the environment where such programs take place. Thus, this work--one of only a few ethnographic studies of violence prevention programs in schools--links previous quantitative research on the topic and critical ethnography. Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy:

• includes voices of school students, accused of practicing violence, who have been participants in violence prevention programs;

• analyzes a citywide peer mediation program (who benefits and who does not, who is mediated and who mediates, and what the implications of these findings may be);

• examines the kinds of violence recognized in schools and the ways schools themselves may perpetuate violence; and

• describes a violence prevention program for students at an alternative school.

Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy is highly relevant for students in courses on urban education, foundations of education, education and social policy, youth and the law, and qualitative research, and for teachers, administrators, and other professionals, such as school psychologists and guidance counselors, at the middle and high school levels.


Gun violence among adults has long been endemic in the United States. In the 1990s, however, when highly publicized incidents of gun violence took place not only among adults, but among children in schools; in middle class suburbs and rural areas as well as in financially-strapped cities; and among children of the White majority as well as among minority populations, the public became outraged. The authors of this book believe that the outrage about violence in schools was long overdue. The use of guns, while the most lethal, is still the least likely form of violence in schools, but violence through bullying, extortion, name calling, sexual harassment, and suicide are prevalent nationally.

We have written this book to explain the cultural and psychological underpinnings of violence among youth; to assess the effect of programs already adopted by schools; and to galvanize professional educators and the public to act on their outrage by adopting a whole-school approach to preventing violence, an approach that will involve communities as well as schools in addressing the problem.

Young people of school age belong to a network of systems—family, community, and school. Each of these has its sub-systems. The community, for instance, includes federal, state, and local legislatures and execu-

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