Violence Prevention in Middle School: A Preliminary Study

By Killam, Wendy K.; Roland, Catherine B. et al. | Michigan Journal of Counseling, Fall-Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Violence Prevention in Middle School: A Preliminary Study


Killam, Wendy K., Roland, Catherine B., Weber, Bill, Michigan Journal of Counseling


With the growing acts of incivility and violence on today's K-12 school campuses, the need for prevention violence has never been more important. Major problems listed by schools in the United States are fighting violence and gangs (Algozzine & McGee, 2011). School violence continues to be a major problem, with numerous contributing factors which need attention from many different angles. As an example, the lack of close relationships with parents has been linked with an increase in violence in boys such as physical fighting and violence with a weapon during early adolescent years (Stoddard, et. al., 2011). This is an indication that violence prevention efforts need to address family issues as well. Often children learn behaviors at home and then exhibit those behaviors in other places such as school, which typically can reflect the dynamics that play out in the home.

Literature Review

The impact of school violence is multifaceted. When violence occurs at school it can lead to victims feeling depressed and isolated. Researchers have indicated that some students who are victims of school violence skip school occasionally due to not feeling safe (Johnson, Burke, & Gielen, 2011). Furthermore, Blosnich and Bossarte (2011) indicated that even low-level violence can result in negative emotional and psychological consequences for the victims. While the focus is often on violence against students, it is important to note that violence in schools occurs within social contexts and can also include violence against teachers, principals, counselors and other school-based personnel who have perceived or real experience with a level of violence in the school (Algozzine and McGee, 2011). In some school districts, teachers and other personnel have left the schools due to not feeling safe and believed violence within the community had impacted the atmosphere within the school (Algozzine & McGee, 2011). Violent events in school are often reported in the news bringing attention to the issue (Espelage, et. al., 2013)

Often people think of extreme physical violence, shootings and rapes when it comes to school violence. However, there are numerous forms of school violence including bullying, intimidation and gang activity. Social and environmental factors can impact whether or not students participate in violent activities. Participation in violent activities increases significantly during adolescence (Stoddard et. al, 2011). For some students, peer pressure may be a factor in getting involved in violent activities. Kerbs and Jolley (2007) indicated that more than 50 percent of students may believe that the victims brought the violence upon themselves and that there is nothing wrong with teasing others who are different. Addressing these issues is a complex task yet too often the focus is merely on changing behaviors. Nadal and Griffin (2011) pointed out that hate crimes begin through language, harassment and incivility toward different youth, are examples of the microagressions we see in schools and family settings.

Many schools have focused on the changing behaviors and mandating punishment for behaviors using a no tolerance policy. They may combine this approach with conflict resolution skills but for some schools these efforts have not been enough (Johnson, Burke & Gielen, 2012). School environment is an important factor in academic success and violence in schools is negatively impacting the development of students both academically and emotionally (Johnson, Burke & Gielen, 2011). More than half of middle schools use some type of security or surveillance methods but these measures are costly and the research has not supported an increase in school safer or a reduction of fear of violence on the part of students (Gottfredson & DiPietro, 2011). It is also interesting to note that violence may not always be reported. In fact, Algozzine and McGee (2011) found in their study that students were more likely to report school crime and violence than teachers or administrators. …

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