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Reece L. Peterson is an associate professor of special educa-
tion and communication disorders at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. Russell Skiba is an associate professor in
the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology,
Indiana Policy Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington.
This article originally appeared in Preventing School Failure,
Spring 2000, pgs. 122–129. Reprinted with permission of the
Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation. Published by
Heldref Publications, 1319 18th St. N.W, Washington, D.C.
20036-1802. Copyright 2000.
Many programs whose purpose is to prevent vio-
lence or inappropriate behavior are also pro-
grams that might prevent disaffection, dropping
out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor academic
performance. In other words, many prevention-oriented
interventions are interventions that are not specific to vio-
lence or behavior and that address universals that affect a
variety of possible negative outcomes related to schooling.
In this article, we will identify and discuss some of the in-
tervention options that are intended to prevent violence
and inappropriate behavior in school by directly or indi-
rectly affecting the social climate of the school.
School climate might be defined as the feelings that
students and staff have about the school environment over
a period of time. These feelings may have to do with how
comfortable each individual feels in the environment and
whether the individual feels that the environment is sup-
portive of learning (or teaching), is appropriately orga-
nized, and is safe. Climate may also address other positive
or negative feelings regarding the school environment. We
would hypothesize that comfortable and supportive feel-
ings would support effective and efficient learning and
teaching as well as positive student behavior and attitudes.
Conversely, negative feelings such as concern, fear, frustra-
tion, and loneliness would negatively affect learning and
behavior. Therefore, school climate is a reflection of the
positive or negative feelings regarding the school environ-
ment, and it may directly or indirectly affect a variety of
learning outcomes.
The typical measures of school climate are surveys of
students, parents, staff, and sometimes community mem-
bers regarding what they think about the school. They in-
clude judgments about issues such as teacher-student
relationships, security and maintenance, administration,
student academic orientation, and student behavioral val-
ues (Kelly et al., 1936). These surveys usually use some
form of Likert-type rating items and attempt to identify
both specific strengths and weaknesses regarding these is-
sues. Recently, a variety of safety-oriented surveys have at-
tempted to identify the degree to which conflict, violence,
and other disruptions contribute to a negative school cli-
mate as well. Data from these surveys may be useful in as-
sessing and intervening to positively affect school climate.
Many have identified three components to a compre-
hensive approach to violence prevention in schools. These
include (a) prevention, (b) identification and intervention
for students at risk for having difficulty, and (c) effective
responses once inappropriate behavior has occurred.
Although all three components must be implemented si-
multaneously and effectively in a truly comprehensive
Creating School Climates
That Prevent School Violence
Reece L. Peterson and Russell Skiba
Reading 3.4
“Creating School Climates that Prevent School Violence” by Reece Peterson
and Russell Skiba in The Clearing House, January/February 2001, Vol. 74,
No. 3,pp. 155–163. Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission of the
Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation. Published by Heldref
Publications, 1319 Eighteenth St., NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802.
approach, the focus here is on the first of these compo-
nents, basic prevention. Almost all programs that focus on
basic prevention of violence, drug abuse, dropping out, or
whatever also focus on creating a positive school climate.
Whether at the school or the individual level, effective in-
tervention requires a wide spectrum of options that move
significantly beyond a narrow focus on punishment and
exclusion, which themselves can contribute to a negative
school climate.
Security measures, video cameras, locker searches, and
metal detectors, which are clearly intended to reduce
school crime and violence, may also affect school climate.
In some cases, and for some students and staff, these mea-
sures may improve the safety element of school climate, but
for others they may negatively affect climate by creating an
atmosphere of fear or intimidation.
A vast array of ideas have been proposed regarding
how schools can affect and improve their social climate.
Many of these ideas and programs emphasize a similar set
of ideas. Many emphasize creating “caring in schools” or
“caring learning environments” (Noddings, 1992); others
stress “building a sense of community” in schools
(Sergiovanni, 1994; Whelage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko, &
Fernandez, 1989); and many others emphasize the devel-
opment of adult-child relationships (Feedman, 1993;
Charney, 1998). Mentoring programs, peer- and cross-age
tutoring programs, school-within-a-school programs, co-
operative learning, home base/homeroom programs, loop-
ing (in which teachers advance grade levels each year to
remain with students), programs emphasizing welcoming
and belonging in schools: All could be considered pro-
grams emphasizing these principles and the idea of small,
close-knit learning communities. Although these certainly
focus on improving climate and all probably have a role in
violence prevention as a result, they have not generally been
viewed as violence-prevention programs. Perhaps they
should be viewed that way.
Instead here we will focus on several prominent ap-
proaches for schools to improve school climate, in part to
prevent violence or at least to improve student behavioral
conflicts. These will include (a) parent and community in-
volvement, (b) character education, (c) violence-preven-
tion and conflict-resolution curricula, (d) peer mediation,
and (e) bullying prevention.
PARENT AND COMMUNITY
INVOLVEMENT
Parent involvement promotes a healthy and consistent
learning environment by establishing mutual goals be-
tween parents and educators and by developing activities
that cut across home and school (Christenson, 1995;
Weiss & Edwards, 1992). Parent involvement programs
actively engage parents through a variety of activities that
enable them to participate more fully in their children’s
education both at home and at school. Although most of
the emphasis is placed on parent involvement, increased
involvement of a variety of community members and
volunteers may also be important and may have similar
benefits.
Family-school collaboration is a cooperative process of
planning that brings together school staff, parents, chil-
dren, and community members to maximize resources for
child achievement and development.Although connections
between parent involvement and school violence have
rarely been studied, increased parent involvement can re-
sult in home environments that are more conducive to
learning and that improve communication and consistency
between home and school. These changes can lead to safer,
more responsive schools.
Strategies for Creating Involvement
Traditionally, parent involvement roles have been limited to
activities such as Parent-Teacher Organization meetings
and parent-teacher conferences. Parent involvement ex-
perts have identified six ways that schools can promote par-
ent involvement in learning (Epstein, 1992). The first three
ways take place in the home setting. First, schools can help
parents increase involvement by teaching them better
child-rearing skills through parenting components. One
New Jersey middle school taught parents to use home-
school contracts to better manage their children’s inappro-
priate behavior (Smith, 1994). Second, schools may also
assist parents by stressing learning at home. In the Parents
Assuring Student Success (PASS) program, parents learn
how to supplement schoolwork by instructing their chil-
dren at home in academic tasks such as reading and time
management (Ban, 1993). Third, all parent involvement
programs include an element of increased communication.
The Parents As Teachers of Children (PATCH) program,
for example, provides numerous support contacts for both
parents and staff and holds regular staff, training, and su-
pervision meetings during which concerns can be ad-
dressed (Williamson, 1997).
Fourth, providing opportunities for volunteering can
increase parental and community involvement. New Ha-
ven’s School Development engages a Parent Program team
to promote parent volunteers in social activities, as class-
room aides, and as members of the school development
committee (Haynes & Corner, 1996; Warner, 1991; Lloyd,
1996). Fifth, parents may develop a higher degree of own-
ership in programs that include a component of decision
making. The Parent in Touch Program in the Indianapolis
2THE TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SOCIETY READER
Public Schools, for example, involves parents in planning
the academic curriculum (Warner, 1991). Sixth, and last,
collaborating-with-community components use commu-
nity resources to strengthen school programs. The Utah
Center for Families in Education, a community center de-
veloped specifically to meet the needs of school-aged chil-
dren and their families, is run jointly by state officials,
school administrators, school families, and members of the
community (Lloyd, 1996).
Some programs have been directed at parents of stu-
dents with challenging behavior. For example, one ele-
mentary school in California required parents of students
at risk for expulsion to attend regular meetings to develop
a solution regarding their child’s behavior. The col-
laborative team approach used in these meetings was
rated highly successful by both parents and teachers
(Morrison, Olivos, Dominguez, Gomez, & Lena, 1993).
Parent management training, which teaches parents ef-
fective methods of behavior management to decrease
their children’s aggressive behavior, has also been used
with families of students exhibiting aggressive or disrup-
tive behavior.
Outcomes of Involvement
Parent involvement is positively associated with student
success, higher attendance rates, and lower suspension
rates. One Iowa high school increased attendance rates by
improving communication with parents about stricter at-
tendance rules and involving parents in the im-
plementation process (Kube & Ratigan, 1991). Increased
parent involvement has also been shown to lead to greater
teacher satisfaction, improved parent understanding and
parent-child communication, and more successful and ef-
fective school programs.
Parent involvement provides an important opportu-
nity for schools to enrich current school programs by
bringing parents and community members into the edu-
cational process. Increased parent involvement has been
shown to result in increased student success, increased
parent and teacher satisfaction, and improved school cli-
mate. Schools can encourage involvement in a number of
areas including parenting, learning at home, communica-
tion, volunteering, decision making, and community col-
laboration. Effective parent and community involvement
programs are built on a careful consideration of the
unique needs of the community. To build trust, effective
approaches to parent involvement rely on a strength-
based approach emphasizing positive interactions.
Though specifics may vary, all parent involvement pro-
grams share the goal of increasing parent-school collabo-
ration to promote healthy child development and safe
school communities.
CHARACTER EDUCATION
Many schools have looked for ways to provide proactive
guidance for students to learn the positive behaviors and
values that should be a part of the education of all people.
Many experts have called for schools to be more active in
teaching the moral and civic values that are an essential
part of our social fabric and sense of community. These
calls are not new, and they reach back to philosophers such
as Kant and Buber and to educators such as Dewey, who
published his book Moral Principles in Education in 1909
(Henley, Ramsey, & Algozzine, 1999). A successful school,
like a successful business, is a cohesive community of
shared values, beliefs, rituals and ceremonies. The commu-
nity celebrates its saga by telling the stories of heroes and
heroines who embody the core values of the community”
(Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern, 1990, p. 31). These
efforts at creating and teaching a core group of values could
be called character education.
Character education is a broad term that is used to de-
scribe the general curriculum and organizational features of
schools that promote the development of fundamental val-
ues in children at school. Although both family and re-
ligious institutions may have more primary roles in this
process, few deny that the schools may also have a role here.
Many have said that schools and classrooms exude values
whether consciously or not (Henley, Ramsey, &, Algozzine,
1999). According to London (1987, p. 671), character educa-
tion includes two primary components: (a) education in
civic virtue and in the qualities that teach children the forms
and rules of citizenship in a just society; and (b) education
in personal adjustment, chiefly in the qualities that enable
children to become productive and dependable citizens.
Implementing Character Education
Character education may include a variety of subcom-
ponents that can be a part of a larger character education
program or that can be self-standing components. These in-
clude social skills instruction and curriculum, moral de-
velopment instruction and curriculum, values clarification
instruction and curriculum, caring education and curricu-
lum, school values statements, and perhaps others as well.In
addition, other programs such as cooperative-learning
strategies, participatory decision making for students, and
service learning are sometimes also classified as components
of character education. At the same time, character educa-
tion itself is often viewed as simply one component of some
larger school reform and improvement strategies. For exam-
ple, the “Basic School” as proposed by Boyer, has four com-
ponents: The School As Community, A Curriculum With
Coherence, A Climate for Learning, and A Commitment to
Character (Boyer, 1995).
READING 3.4: CREATING SCHOOL CLIMATES THAT PREVENT SCHOOL VIOLENCE 3
In some schools value statements become almost
part of the school logo and identity.
According to Lickona (1988, p.420), the moral or char-
acter education of elementary students is designed to ac-
complish three goals:
1. To promote development away from egocentrism and
excessive individualism and toward cooperative rela-
tionships and mutual respect;
2. To foster the growth of moral agency—the capacity
to think, feel, and act morally; and
3. To develop in the classroom and in the school a moral
community based on fairness, caring, and participa-
tion—such a community being a moral end in itself
as well as a support system for the character develop-
ment of each individual student.
To accomplish these goals, Lickona advocates four
processes that he feels should be going on in the classroom:
building self-esteem and sense of community, learning to
cooperate and to help others, moral reflection, and partici-
patory decision making.
Specific qualities sought in children are
1. Self-respect that derives feelings of worth not only
from competence but also from positive behavior to-
ward others;
2. Social perspective taking that asks how others think
and feel;
3. Moral reasoning about the right thing to do;
4. Moral values such as kindness, courtesy, trust-
worthiness, and responsibility.
Examples
Two examples of different kinds of programs within the
framework of character education might be “Character
Counts!” and school value statements.
Character Counts. “Character Counts!” is an ethics and
character-building curriculum program designed for stu-
dents aged 4–19 (Character Counts, 2000). The program
teaches and develops a consensus regarding a set of ethical
values that transcend race, creed, politics, gender, and
wealth. The Character Counts! curriculum and the coali-
tion that supports it work to overcome the false but sur-
prisingly powerful notion that no single value is
intrinsically superior to another; that ethical values vary by
race, class, gender, and politics; and that greed and fairness,
cheating and honesty, all carry the same moral weight
(Anderson, 1999). The “Six Pillars of Character” that form
the core of ethical values for the program are
1. Trustworthiness. Be honest; don’t deceive, cheat, or
steal. Be reliable—do what you say you’ll do. Have the
courage to do the right thing. Build a good reputation.
Be loyal—stand by your family, friends, and country.
2. Respect. Treat others with respect; follow the Golden
Rule. Be tolerant of differences. Use good manners,
not bad language. Be considerate of the feelings of
others. Don’t threaten, hit, or hurt anyone. Deal
peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements.
3. Responsibility. Do what you are supposed to do. Per-
severe: Keep on trying! Always do your best. Use self-
control. Be self-disciplined. Think before you act.
Consider the consequences. Be accountable for your
choices.
4. Fairness. Play by the rules. Take turns and share. Be
open-minded; listen to others. Don’t take advantage
of others. Don’t blame others carelessly.
5. Caring. Be kind. Be compassionate and show you care.
Express gratitude. Forgive others. Help people in need.
6. Citizenship. Do your share to make your school and
community better. Cooperate. Stay informed. Vote.
Be a good neighbor. Obey laws and rules. Respect au-
thority. Protect the environment.
School Value Statements. Many schools, particularly ele-
mentary schools, have chosen to identify a set of school-wide
value statements that are intended to provide a schoolwide
base of expectations for student behavior. In some cases,these
value statements are a part of a larger character-education
program that includes citizenship education, social-skills in-
struction, and service learning (for example, the Character
Counts! program), but in other cases the set of values may
not be part of such a program and may be self-standing.
The value statements tend to be a list of positive char-
acteristics that all faculty and students can accept as desirable
goals for student behavior. The values are usually promi-
nently displayed in key locations in the school and are some-
times included on stationery, newsletters to parents, and
assembly programs. In some schools these value statements
become almost part of the school logo and identity, and they
are referred to and used in a variety of situations.
These value statements are distinguished from school
or classroom rules in that they identify positive traits and
goals rather than specific appropriate or inappropriate be-
haviors. For example, these three simple values or goals:
“Be safe; Be respectful; and, Be responsible” can be distin-
guished from the following three rules: “Be in position;
Keep hands and feet to self; and,Start work on time,”which
are much more specific and focus on particular behaviors
regardless of their motivation. As a result, schools often use
the value statements as the justification for the creation and
implementation of more specific rules for various situa-
tions or locations in school.
4THE TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SOCIETY READER
An example of one such value statement might be the
seven virtues identified by Ernest L. Boyer, president of the
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
(1995). These seven virtues are
1. Honesty
2. Respect
3. Responsibility
4. Compassion
5. Self-discipline
6. Perseverance
7. Giving
Although the exact wording may vary,there tends to be
considerable overlap in the values content identified by
various schools. This is not unexpected if the values identi-
fied truly represent a core of values to which the larger
community ascribes.
To implement these value statements, many schools
have established a “values committee” of students, parents,
teachers, administrators, school board members, and clergy
from various faiths to attempt to devise a list of values.
Sometimes these are then discussed in school assemblies,
homerooms, and in public hearings to obtain input and to
develop a sense of community and school consensus
around the values; such a discussion also permits parents
not only to be informed but to support these values in their
children. In an era when the boundaries between school
and religious as well as family responsibilities for values
may be controversial, most schools have attempted to de-
velop and include only those values that all faiths and fam-
ilies are likely to be able to fully endorse.
In addition to simply being posted or distributed, most
schools that implement these value statements also en-
courage all teachers to employ these values in working with
students in their classes, and many suggest that class in-
struction be devoted to ensuring that students understand
the values and related rules and also to building consensus
on the importance of the values.
Most schools also attempt to recognize students whose
behavior exemplifies one or more of these values.
This is often done by posting names prominently in
the school hall near the office, recognizing these students in
honors or awards ceremonies or assemblies, and providing
recognition certificates, and also by providing special priv-
ileges such as lunch with the principal or a special parking
spot, or by distributing tangible awards such as small prizes
or other items donated by local businesses and citizens or
certificates for free or discounted food items. Additionally,
many schools code these values into their overall district
“Codes of Conduct” and school discipline systems, by rein-
forcing behavior in accord with the values and by creating
other consequences for violations of these values.
Outcomes of Character Education
Character-education programs, as with many practices in
schools, have logical and common-sense value. If vio-
lence and inappropriate behavior in school are among
the causes of deteriorating home and community values
as well as poor moral judgment by the student perpetra-
tors, then character-education programs directly address
these causes. Although character-educa-tion programs
are widely accepted and have been advocated by a wide
array of prominent organizations and individuals, there
is little or no research evidence for or against the effec-
tiveness of these efforts to prevent violence or to reduce
other kinds of behavior problems. Although local evalua-
tions of some programs, such as Character Counts!, have
been conducted, there have been no major national stud-
ies of these specific types of programs, let alone character
education more generally. Part of the difficulty arises be-
cause character education is a general philosophy and
does not prescribe specific practices. As a result it is not
easy to evaluate the effectiveness of such approaches be-
cause they are difficult to define, and the outcomes are
hard to pin on such a general program or philosophy.
Even individual examples of such programs, such as
Character Counts!, which identifies the character goals
and provides some curriculum materials, do not provide
specific practices regarding how the program is to be in-
stilled throughout the school environment; thus they
challenge evaluation.
There is virtually no empirical evidence about the
measurable outcomes of having school value statements.
Again, they have logical and common-sense value and
may serve to supplant deteriorating home and commu-
nity values. It is not clear that these school value state-
ments can compensate for larger community value
deficits, but such efforts by schools are viewed with a
“can’t hurt” attitude and with the belief that this is the
right thing for schools to do. Although these value state-
ments may not change the attitudes or behaviors of
chronically disruptive students, they may positively affect
many other students in a preventative way and provide
meaning for their prosocial behavior.
VIOLENCE-PREVENTION AND
CONFLICT-RESOLUTION
CURRICULA
Violence-prevention and conflict-resolution curricula
teach students to use alternatives to violence when re-
solving their interpersonal and personal problems. These
programs rely on ongoing instruction and discussion to
READING 3.4: CREATING SCHOOL CLIMATES THAT PREVENT SCHOOL VIOLENCE 5
change the perceptions, attitudes, and skills of students. A
number of violence-prevention curricula have become
available since the mid-1980s. Such programs typically
strive to provide knowledge about violence and conflict, to
increase students’ understanding of their own and others’
feelings, and to teach students the personal and inter-
personal skills necessary to avoid violence.
Curricula vary in their emphasis. Conflict-resolution
curricula focus on understanding conflict and learning ne-
gotiation-based responses to conflict. Violence-preven-tion
curricula emphasize increasing students’ knowledge about
violence and teaching students alternatives to fighting.
Social problem-solving curricula tend to focus on under-
standing feelings and on teaching students problem-solv-
ing strategies for dealing with their personal and
interpersonal problems.
Peer mediation can substantially change how stu-
dents approach and settle conflicts.
Lessons cover a variety of topics, including the preva-
lence of violence or conflict, identifying and expressing
feelings, managing anger, using conflict resolution, ap-
preciating diversity, and coping with stress. Instructional
formats include teacher lecture, class meeting, or discus-
sion. Students are encouraged to explore their own reac-
tions and responses, often through videotaped scenarios
and self-reflection worksheets. Finally, most programs in-
clude a role-playing component to provide opportunities
to practice alternative skills and behaviors.
Violence-prevention and conflict-resolution curricula
are most often part of a broader program. Instruction in
conflict resolution is typically presented in conjunction
with a classroom or schoolwide peer-mediation program.
Some programs provide guidelines for school discipline or
classroom management that are consistent with the curric-
ula. Others focus on building family relationships and par-
ent involvement in the school community.
Outcomes for Violence-Prevention Curricula
The use of schoolwide violence-prevention or conflict-res-
olution curricula is very recent; there have been few evalu-
ations to date. This does not mean that such programs are
ineffective. Rather, it suggests that any school that commits
to using a violence-prevention curriculum may wish to un-
dertake its own evaluation of the effectiveness and useful-
ness of the approach.
A number of programs have documented positive
changes in student attitude and behavior. Among the most
successful has been the Resolving Conflict Creatively pro-
gram. In a large-scale evaluation of the program, a major-
ity of teachers reported less physical violence and increased
student cooperation in their classrooms. Other docu-
mented benefits of such curricula include improvements in
classroom climate and student self-esteem, reductions in
fighting and other disciplinary violations, and lower rates
of both suspension at the middle school level and dropping
out at the high school level. Teachers in successful pro-
grams have reported that they find themselves listening
more attentively to students.
Some curricula emphasize social cognition or social
problem solving in attempting to change student thinking
about social interactions. Students exposed to such pro-
grams often learn to identify a greater variety of prosocial
responses to hypothetical conflict situations. It is impor-
tant to note, however, that improved ability to describe so-
lutions to hypothetical situations does not guarantee
improved behavior.
The effectiveness of violence-prevention curricula may
well depend on how extensively the program is imple-
mented. Teachers in successful programs are highly com-
mitted to the program and teach it regularly. In one study,
student gains were directly proportional to the number of
lessons they had received. Comparisons of different ap-
proaches have found that a teacher-directed approach
might be best for decreasing the isolation of at-risk stu-
dents. A comparison of violence-prevention with con-flict-
resolution curricula found that both are effective but that
conflict-resolution programs seemed more successful in re-
ducing the most serious types of violence.
In the face of a culture of violence that seems to per-
vade our schools and society, curricula that teach students
the attitudes and skills they need to avoid violence seem to
provide one sound strategy for violence prevention.
Although differing in their emphases, violence-pre-ven-
tion, conflict-resolution, and social problem-solving cur-
ricula all attempt to increase student knowledge, to
improve their awareness of feelings, and to teach new skills
that can provide an alternative to violence. Because the
field is young, schools seeking to implement the program
should carefully evaluate the curriculum and plan imple-
mentation. The most important challenge in adopting such
a curriculum may be to find an approach that is appropri-
ate and can be fully accepted by faculty to ensure a high
level of commitment and consistency in implementation.
PEER MEDIATION
Peer mediation is a negotiation-based strategy that teaches
student mediators strategies to help resolve conflict among
their peers. The student mediators then use these strategies
to help keep minor school conflicts from escalating over
time into more serious incidents (Bodine & Crawford,
1998). More important, peer mediation teaches students
(mediators and disputants) an alternative set of skills that
they can apply in conflict situations. Over time, students in
6THE TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SOCIETY READER
schools with effective peer-mediation programs learn that
there are alternatives to violence for solving personal prob-
lems or resolving interpersonal conflict.
In mediation, an impartial third party attempts to help
others in a dispute come to a “win-win”rather than a “win-
lose” resolution of conflict (Fisher & Ury, 1991). In peer
mediation, student mediators are taught an interest-based
negotiation procedure, along with communication and
problem-solving strategies, to help their peers settle dis-
agreements without confrontation or violence. Inter-est-
based negotiation attempts to identify the interests that lie
beneath the surface positions in a dispute. In the process of
training, mediators learn that conflict can be resolved con-
structively and that their role as mediators is not to judge
or to force an agreement or solution. Rather, students come
to mediation voluntarily and are guided by peer mediators
to move from blaming each other to devising solutions ac-
ceptable to all parties.
Peer-mediation programs grew out of programs such
as the Community Boards program in San Francisco or
Resolving Conflict Creatively in the New York City Public
Schools that were developed by attorneys and child advo-
cates in the mid-1970s (Lantieri & Patti, 1996). Some pro-
grams teach all students in the school processes to
mediate disputes (Lantieri & Patti, 1996). Others select
and train a cadre of students who act as the school’s con-
flict managers....
Peer mediation has been used in a variety of situations.
Although in some peer-mediation programs students learn
arbitration only in informal situations such as the play-
ground, in other programs, students learn to bring peer
mediation into the classroom for resolving disputes. Some
more formal programs may even establish a mediation of-
fice in which all peer mediation occurs. Although it can be
implemented as a stand-alone program, most conflict-res-
olution programs recommend that peer mediation be used
as one piece of a broader curriculum of violence preven-
tion and conflict resolution.
Outcomes of Peer-Mediation Programs
The spread of peer-mediation programs around the coun-
try has outpaced research on their effects; as a result, there
is much we still need to know about the effectiveness of
peer mediation. Yet a wide variety of studies conducted in
different locations and situations have found that peer me-
diation appears to be a promising strategy for improving
school climate. A well-conducted peer-mediation program
can be successful in changing the way students approach
conflict. Students appear to be able to learn the steps of
peer mediation as well as to use and retain them over a pe-
riod of months. The use of peer mediation can substan-
tially change how students approach and settle conflicts. In
one middle school, 83% of students trained in peer media-
tion reported “win-win” settlements whereas 86% of un-
trained controls reported that conflicts resulted in a
“win-lose” outcome (Johnson & Johnson, 1996).
These changes in turn appear to lead to other positive
outcomes. Student attitudes toward negotiation may be-
come more positive, with students more willing to help
friends avoid fights and solve problems and less likely to
believe that certain individuals deserve to be “beaten up.”
Although some studies have found no overall differences in
perceptions of school climate, a number of others have re-
ported that both students and teachers believe that peer
mediation significantly improved their school climate.
There is also evidence that implementing peer-mediation
programs can be associated with fewer fights, fewer refer-
rals to the office, and a decreased rate of school suspension
(Johnson & Johnson, 1996). Finally, for the student media-
tors themselves, learning the mediation process has been
shown to increase self-esteem and even to improve acade-
mic achievement.
Thus, peer mediation can have positive effects on stu-
dent-conflict resolution and school climate. Yet the in-
completeness of our knowledge, combined with
occasional failures in peer mediation, suggests that suc-
cess is not automatic. Rather, the benefits of peer medita-
tion may depend on how well the program is planned and
carried out. To be most effective, peer mediation should
be part of a whole school effort. Teachers, administrators,
and other staff need to understand and support the goals
and processes of such a program. Although peer media-
tion is often implemented independently of other compo-
nents, integrating peer mediation into a broader program
that includes life-skills or violence-prevention curriculum
appears to increase the effectiveness of the program (Lan-
tieri & Patti, 1996).
Without training in negotiation, students appear to re-
solve most conflicts by either withdrawing or forcing a solu-
tion. A well-conducted peer-mediation program can teach
students alternative strategies to aggression and withdrawal
for settling conflicts. In particular, student mediators learn
communication and problem-solving strategies that can en-
able them to help their peers find mutually satisfying solu-
tions to disputes. This can lead to improved school climate,
and even decreased office referrals and suspensions.Yet peer
mediation is complex; to be successful, a program must be
adequately planned and the mediators well trained. A facili-
tator or a team must attend to logistical details, must ensure
that peer mediators are trained in both the assumptions and
processes of mediation, and must monitor the success of
mediators. With adequate attention to these details, peer
mediation appears to be a promising tool that, used as part
of a broader program, can help teach students methods to
settle their conflicts without resorting to violence.
READING 3.4: CREATING SCHOOL CLIMATES THAT PREVENT SCHOOL VIOLENCE 7
BULLYING PREVENTION
In the last three years, incidents of violent retribution have
led to an increased awareness of the problem of bullying.
Although often overlooked in schools, a large number of
students report having been bullied. Bullying has detri-
mental psychological effects on children, such as low self-
esteem, depression, and suicide.
A student is being bullied or victimized when exposed,
repeatedly over time, to intentional injury or discomfort
inflicted by one or more other students. This may include
using physical contact or verbal assault, making obscene
gestures or facial expressions, and being intentionally ex-
cluded. Bullying implies an imbalance of power or strength
in which others victimize one child.
Surprisingly, large proportions of students are bullied
in schools. In the United States, approximately 20% of stu-
dents are bullied (Whitney & Smith, 1993). Most bullying
occurs in places with little adult supervision, such as play-
grounds and hallways. Bullies are typically larger than their
victims and have more positive attitudes toward the use of
violence than other students. Victims are less popular and
often without a single friend in class; they tend to be more
anxious and insecure than other students and commonly
react by crying, withdrawal, and avoidance when attacked.
Such reactions may be reinforcing to bullies.
Bullying has serious consequences for the victims, the
perpetrators, and the school. Victims report feeling venge-
fulness, anger, and self-pity after a bullying incident (Borg,
1998). Left untreated, such reactions can evolve into de-
pression, physical illness, and even suicide. In addition, stu-
dents who engage in aggressive and bullying behaviors
during their school years may engage in criminal and ag-
gressive behavior after adolescence. In classrooms exhibit-
ing high numbers of bullying problems, students tend to
feel less safe and are less satisfied with school life (Olweus &
Limber, 1999).
Bullying is often tolerated and ignored. Some have es-
timated that teachers rarely detect this problem and only
intervene in 4% of all incidents (Craig & Pepler, 1997). In
addition, students tend to believe that bullied students are
at least partly to blame for their victimization, that bullying
makes the victims tougher, and that teasing is simply done
in fun (Oliver, Hoover, & Hazler, 1994). Students who re-
port such incidents believe that nothing will be done.
Bullying prevention programs are a whole school effort
designed to send a message that bullying will not be ac-
cepted in school. Well-designed and well-implemented
programs can create an overall climate of warmth and
adult involvement and can educate students to recognize
instances of bullying.
One program incorporating intervention decreased
bullying by 50%.
Effective bullying prevention programs rely on a num-
ber of components to reduce and prevent bullying prob-
lems. Through improved supervision, classroom rules
against bullying, positive and negative consequences for
following and violating rules, and serious talks with the
bullies and victims, prevention plans strive to develop a
school environment characterized by warmth and positive
adult involvement. Other programs include a school con-
ference day to discuss bullying, meetings with parents of
bullies and victims, and regular classroom meetings. At the
elementary level, worksheets, role plays, and relevant litera-
ture may be incorporated into existing curriculum. Such
measures give the message that “bullying is not accepted in
our school, and we will see to it that it comes to an end.
Individual interventions (e.g., keeping a victim close
to a teacher at all times) are somewhat effective but may
not significantly reduce bullying behavior. Comprehensive
prevention programs have been implemented and evalu-
ated in many cultures with encouraging results (Olweus &
Limber, 1999).
Outcomes of Bullying Prevention Programs
There is an extensive knowledge base showing that well-de-
signed bullying prevention programs can reduce, eliminate,
and prevent bully-victim problems as well as improve over-
all school climate significantly. One program incorporating
school, classroom, and individual interventions decreased
bullying by 50% and reduced the reported intensity of bul-
lying incidents (Olweus, 1993). Prevention programs have
been shown to reduce general antisocial behavior such as
fighting, vandalism, and truancy while increasing student
satisfaction with their school.
Effective programs have two key prerequisites: aware-
ness and adult involvement. To create a school climate that
discourages bullying, school staff and parents must become
aware of the extent of bully-victim problems in their own
school. In addition, effective prevention also requires a
commitment on the part of all adults to reduce or eliminate
bullying. All bullying prevention programs recommend a
prevention committee at the school level and a coordinator
of prevention activities and curricula. The committee typi-
cally assesses the extent of the problem by designing and
administering an anonymous student questionnaire. Using
these data, the committee can make recommendations
about which components are to be implemented and what
materials are needed.
Most bullying occurrences are undetected or ignored,
leading to detrimental effects for victims, bullies, and school
climate. A well-conducted prevention program teaches stu-
dents that bullying is unacceptable behavior and will not be
tolerated. Effective programs have significantly reduced the
occurrence of bullying and have improved school climate.
8THE TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SOCIETY READER
CONCLUSION
There appear to be a variety of programs that could be
categorized as approaches intended to positively affect
school climate and that also may be promising strategies
for violence reduction. In addition to the five programs
discussed briefly in this article, there may be a variety of
other curricula that are of positive value. Although the ev-
idence for the impact of these programs is not yet as
strong as would be desired, each has enough evidence to
conclude that it is at least a promising approach. Clearly
other factors could negatively affect climate, even where
one or more of these programs were in place; however, the
existence of these curricula would be likely to positively
affect school climate and also to reduce the likelihood of
school violence. In addition, the compound effect of hav-
ing more than one of these programs in place si-
multaneously has not yet been studied, but such an effect
could be promising and could strengthen further the pos-
itive outcomes.
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10 THE TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SOCIETY READER
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The purpose of this research was to describe bullying on the playground The subjects were children observed either bullying or being victimized on the playground. Bullying episodes were identified with 90% inter-rater agreement. Bullying occurred regularly on the playground, approximately once every seven minutes and was of short duration, 38 seconds. The majority of bullying episodes (68%) occurred within 120 feet of the school building. Adults were found to have intervened in 4% of the episodes, while peers intervened in 11% of the episodes. However, adults were more likely to intervene than peers if they were present. Peers were involved in some capacity in 85% of the episodes. Boys bullied more than girls and were more likely to bully victims of the same-sex and repeatedly target the same victim. There were no gender differences in the type of bullying and aggression. Children in the primary and junior grades were equally likely to be involved in bullying and tended to bully students from the same grade level. The results are discussed from an individual difference, socialinteractional, and ecological perspective.
Chapter
Bullying among schoolchildren is certainly a very old phenomenon. The fact that some children are frequently and systematically harassed and attacked by other children has been described in literary works, and many adults have personal experience of it from their own school days. Though many are acquainted with the bully/victim problem, it was not until fairly recently, in the early 1970s, that efforts were made to study it systematically (Olweus, 1973a, 1978). For a considerable time, these attempts were largely confined to Scandinavia. In the 1980s and early 1990s, however, bullying among schoolchildren has received some public attention in Japan, England, Australia, the United States, and other countries. There are now clear indications of an increasing societal as well as research interest into bully/victim problems in several parts of the world.
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