Case Study: Program Evaluation of a Proposed Violence Prevention

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¶ … Program Evaluation of a Proposed Violence Prevention Program

High school seniors are more likely to take weapons to school than to take calculus in school. - President George Bush, 1997

Targeted promotion and prevention issues.

Students who enroll in biology quickly realize that the world is not a sterile place, but no classroom is required at all to introduce them to the high incidence of violence in the nation's schools today. Indeed, many students encounter violence at home, in their schools, as well as in their places of recreation, and some become victims of such abusive behaviors early on in their lives. These episodes of violence may well affect many of these young people for the rest of their lives in adverse ways, ranging from fear of school to full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, other young people may encounter violence in their homes or schools in the form of sexual abuse.

Taken together, these issues are some of the most important problems facing the country today, and despite efforts to reduce the incidence of such behaviors, the problem persists and remains as complicated as ever. According to Rozalski and Yell (2000), "Violence in American society has reached epidemic proportions. Especially troubling is the increasing violence among young people, with the predictable spillover of effects into the public schools. In fact, violence has become a significant aspect of the public school experience in America" (p. 187). The highly publicized recent school shootings in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Colorado have riveted the country's attention on these issues; however, the incidence of violence in our schools have been increasing for the past decade (Rozalski & Yell, 2000). The statistics make it clear that there is a real crisis at hand: "Violence in and around schools has become more common and more serious. Three million crimes are committed each year on the campuses of America's public schools. In the two-year period from 1992 to 1994, 105 students and 12 teachers died violently at school or during school-related activities" (Rozalski & Yell, 2000, p. 187). Fully 80% of these deaths were homicides and guns were used in 77% of the cases; the other 20% of these deaths were suicides (Rozalski & Yell, 2000). Violence in the nation's schools has frequently been associated with impoverished inner-city schools, but the problem has moved to suburban and rural schools as well (Rozalski & Yell, 2000).

Another authority adds that, "Problems of violence caused by our school age children (in and out of schools) are worse now than they have ever been. Youth violence is on the rise and permeates every segment of our society" (Hoffman, 1996, p. 8). Unfortunately, in many ways, the problem has even gotten worse in recent years with the ready availability of weapons. For instance, reflecting the epigraph by President Bush above, Hoffman (1996) emphasizes that, "Today the possibility that a disagreement among students will be settled with some type of weapon rather than an old-fashioned fistfight has increased significantly. A major difference between violence in the schools in the 1950s and the 1990s is the presence and use of weapons, especially guns. Also, students seem to hold a grudge much longer. Some students wait until the last day of school to settle an incident that occurred weeks or even months earlier" (p. 8). In this environment, it is little wonder that many students drop out or turn to substance abuse or other self-destructive behaviors rather than face another day in a school where their safety is not guaranteed (Gabor, 1999).

II. Project vision.

While there are a number of positive outcomes that can be reasonably anticipated that would result from any reduction of violence against children, the project vision for this initiative will focus on the following four areas:

1. Promote pro-social behavior and conflict resolution skills in students;

2. Augment parent and staff conflict resolution strategies and skills;

3. Improve parental affiliation with schools; and, 4. Increase awareness in child sexual abuse issues.

III. Population to be served and rationale for selection.

While many observers might believe that targeting "just the troublemakers" will solve the problem of violence in the schools and elsewhere, the problem is far too complex to benefit from this approach. According to Weinstein (1999):

Decent students struggle to remain decent while warding off their peers who are not. To do so, decent, usually nonviolent students who think adults cannot protect them devise ways to protect themselves. These students may carry weapons for protection, and use posturing, threat displays, and other behavior to appear dangerous and unmanageable. Their hope is that intimidation will ward off predators over whom adults have relinquished control. Students use toughness and bravado as self-protective behavior, and these have become dominant indicators for social evaluation in the peer group. This is the process through which decent students become transformed into proactive instruments of violence. (p. 40)

Moreover, another ingredient in this mix is teacher complacency or apathy concerning violence in the schools. In this regard, Shidler (2001) reports that, "Violence occurs each day within earshot of teachers, ranging from verbal taunts to pushing, shoving, and other types of physical contact. Often, teachers do nothing. This teacher-sanctioned violence is indicative of destructive conflict management. Students' violent behaviors go unchallenged by teachers and administrators, and may result in significant damage to students' self-esteem and sense of dignity" (p. 167). Researchers have found that 80% of children enter their 1st grade year with a high self-esteem and a high sense of dignity; however, by the time children reach 5th grade, just 20% have maintained the same sense of self-esteem, and only 5% carry a high sense of dignity into high school (Shidler, 2000). Therefore, because the entire school's population, including professional staff, is involved in some fashion or another by the incidence of violence, the population to be served by this initiative is a school's entire student body, teachers, support staff, administrators and parents or caregivers. This approach is congruent with Furlong and Morrison (2000) who advise, "When violence occurs in the community, and especially on a school campus, whether by the hands of another student or by an outsider, actions must be taken to ensure the safety of all students and the staff who serve them" (p. 71).

IV. Scope of preventative efforts.

The scope of the preventative efforts envisioned herein are broad and are based on other school-based violence prevention programs that use Elliott et al.'s (1998) definition in developing and implementing intervention strategies that attempt to prevent violence in school settings. Other violence preventive intervention initiatives, though, have also used broader definitions of violence that include delinquent and antisocial behavior such as verbal abuse, the threat of the use of weapons, vandalism, and property crimes (D'Andrea, 2004). Still other prevention programs have expanded this definition by defining six categories of violence as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1.

Six Categories of Violence to be Addressed.

Category

Definition/Description

Physical violence

Included in this category are fistfights that occur in public schools, various forms of physical violence committed by youth gangs, and frequent though underpublicized incidents of domestic violence.

Sexual and gender violence

This category includes hostile and aggressive behaviors that devalue gays, lesbians, and women in our society. Although a tremendous amount of media attention is directed to the problem of violence in our schools, the same amount of attention is not devoted to examining violence against women, which occurs with much greater frequency. The magnitude of this latter problem is highlighted by the National Health and Education Consortium, which reports that one woman is battered every 12 seconds in the United States, usually by a family member, husband, boyfriend, or other acquaintance.

Media violence

Experts have noted that the average child in the United States has viewed more than 10,000 hours of violence on television by the time she or he is 12 years old (Hughes & Hasbrouk, 1996). Investigative reports that emerged from the deadly killings that took place in 1999, at Columbine High School in Colorado, suggested that the repeated viewing of violent films, having access to various hate sites on the Internet, and playing violent video games were all factors that are thought to have contributed to the deliberate manner in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned for and conducted the shooting at their Colorado high school.

Cultural-racial violence

As the nation continues its transformation into an increasingly multicultural society from a nation that has historically been comprised of a majority of persons from white European ancestry to a nation in which most of its citizens will come from non-White, non-European backgrounds, the racial tensions that characterize the country are likely to become exacerbated in the future unless time, effort, and resources are directed toward dealing with this problem. Without directing appropriate resources to deal with the heightening tensions that will predictably accompany the cultural-racial transformation of the United States, several multicultural counseling theorists have argued that these tensions are likely to lead to the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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