CITY OF PITTSFIELD, MA
Mayor Gerald S. Doyle

SCHOOL VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Six years ago, school system personnel were becoming increasingly concerned about the statistics from throughout the United States regarding violence in the schools and decided to become pro-active with this potentially very serious issue. A multi-faceted program was developed and continues to expand.

  • A school adjustment counselor (school social worker) began to work full-time in classrooms with teachers to enhance a climate of peace in the classroom. The program now in its sixth year, has always been voluntary. In the first year for example, 137 teachers chose to have the SAC/Staff trainer work in their classrooms. Students and teacher work on listening skills and ultimately problem solving to enhance the classroom environment. An ongoing research study is evaluating the program. (See question #3). The counselor involved has participated in many violence prevention conferences, including the Harvard School of Public Health Advanced Violence Prevention Training in 1996.
  • Involvement with the SCORE program (student conflict resolution experts) developed by the Attorney General of Massachusetts to place full-time mediation coordinators in each Middle School. Twenty students at each school receive a 20 hour training - as well as ongoing training sessions- to learn how to mediate conflict among their peers. In addition, they organize school-wide programs dealing with issues of peace and conflict resolution within the school. They also go into classed talking to students about conflict and the option of using mediation as a way to resolve conflict peacefully.
  • Mediation programs were begun in all local high schools, including the alternative school. A full-time person was hired in each building who spends one half of her time as advisor to the peer resource team in the building (students who are trained to be first responders to seek help for fellow students who may be in crisis) and half-time coordinating mediation activities for students.
  • In conjunction with the local police department, all high schools and middle schools have full-time resource officers who operate on a "community policing" philosophy, which focuses on prevention reminiscent of the neighborhood police presence of a generation ago.
  • All the schools in the system have adopted major school-wide initiatives, which are violence prevention effort. Examples include Conte Community School, located in a neighborhood with a disproportionate number of students from complex family situations, who is in the second year of the "Responsive Classroom"; a program designed to enhance a climate of peace in the building. Students in many of the school including the entire ninth grade at Taconic High School, many teams in the middle schools, and several upper elementary classrooms are involved in adventure based counseling with a goal to foster team-building and effective communication in the classroom. Reid Middle School is in the fourth year of a school-wide initiative regarding issues of respect - respect for oneself, for others for other peopleís property, for the environment, etc. Our school have units in the health curriculum which deal intensively with domestic violence, as well as other aspects of conflict and help to develop the concept that there are other ways besides fighting to resolve conflicts.
  • Several program have been developed to enhance studentí assertiveness. It is a goal of the comprehensive health curriculum in grades 6 through 10 throughout the system. IN addition, the school system developed a transition program from elementary to middle school to help students who might have particular difficulty making that transition and an after-school program for middle school students, in response to the research that the after-school hours are prime time for risk-taking behaviors.

2. When was the program created and why?

The program was begun six years ago because school system personnel had become increasingly concerned about statistics from the United States regarding violence in the schools and decided to become pro-active in dealing with this potentially very serious issue.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

We are in the third year of research study to measure the effectiveness of the classroom intervention approach piloted by the SAC/staff trainer and now being used by many school adjustment counselors (school social workers) throughout the system. The school systemís clinical psychologist who has an extensive background in research developed a questionnaire. In the first year of evaluation, two hundred twenty students responded to a 22-item pre and post-test which attempted to measure students perception of safety in their classrooms. Results which reported on clusters of studentí (i.e. detached impulsive students or competent problem solvers) were dramatic in students enhanced perceptions of themselves as competent problem solvers in their classrooms. The second year of study involving five hundred seventy two students is currently being collated and evaluated.

4. How is the program financed?

The program has been financed these six years through a variety of State and Federal grants. Safe and Drug-Free Schools, a federal grant provides some of the funding, as does the Massachusetts Health Protection Grant. In addition, a federal D.A.R.E. grant administered through the Governorís Alliance Against Drugs and a State Teen Pregnancy Prevention grant whose goal is primarily to keep students productively busy in the after-school hours provide some of the funding.

5. How is the community involved in the program?

There has been community involvement throughout the development of the program based upon a philosophy which emanated from the development of a required curriculum in comprehensive health education in 1998. A large task force of representative of many diverse entities of the community was convened, initiated by personnel from the Pittsfield Public Schools. Forty-five people were in the group which met regularly over a period of 18 months, focused on their commonalities, not their differences. The local school committee voted unanimously to adopt the resolutions of the task force for mandatory health education for students in the Pittsfield Public Schools.

  • The Attorney General of Massachusetts has been a leading figure in developing the SCORE mediation program in the middle schools.
  • The local police department is a partner and provider of the funding for the school resource officers.
  • Many of our schools through their comprehensive health classes invite regular participation of the local agencies involved with domestic violence into our schools. The school system has participated for five years in the Kids and Company curriculum which is a personal safety curriculum. Currently the local agencies dealing with domestic violence are collaborating with school adjustment counselors to expand this curriculum.
  • School system personnel meet regularly with area legislators to enlist their support with our violence prevention efforts. Local television and newspaper have been used as forums to educate our community in this regard.
  • The school adjustment counselor/staff trainer who developed the peaceful classroom interventions speaks frequently in communities in Massachusetts about the program. Last year she presented at the School Social Workers of Americaís national conference in Austin, Texan and this year have been invited to present at the first International Conference of School Social Workers in Chicago, IL. It is interesting to note that the theme of this conference, which will include representatives from 20 countries, is "Peace in the Classroom." There continues to be a great deal of interest, both from the local and larger community in these violence prevention efforts.

6. Contact person:

Carole G. Siegel, Ed. D.

Unit Leader/Adjustment Coordinator

Pittsfield Public Schools

269 First Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Phone: 413/ 499-9567

Fax: 413/ 443-1195

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