Mayor Gerald S.
VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of
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
- 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
- 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
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
3. How do you measure the programís
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
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
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
- 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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The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.