OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Preventing violence in schools takes community effort

05/28/1998

CORVALLIS - In the aftermath of tragic events such as the shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., the tendency is to place the blame on the parents.

But research on youth violence indicates that only 30 to 40 percent of such outrageous behavior can be attributed to the way a family interacts, according to experts on families and children with the Oregon State University Extension Service. Youth violence is a very complex problem, and no single factor can explain it or prevent it.

Research also shows that juvenile violence and crime can be best addressed through comprehensive strategies that target the family, the school, the neighborhood and the community, said Janice Leno, leader of the OSU Extension Home Economics program.

The most immediate need is to help people deal with the grief, outrage and sense of powerlessness generated by the incident, Leno said. Churches, various government organizations and community groups have already come forward to provide that help.

"It's unfortunate that it takes a tragic event such as the shooting to force people to act, but it's time to begin fashioning a long-term collaborative approach to the problem of violence in schools," Leno said.

"We can help communities develop strategies to deal with this problem," said Jim Rutledge, 4-H Youth program leader. "We believe it is more important to talk about how we can strengthen families and communities rather than how we might lock down school buildings and place armed guards in the schools."

Leno and Rutledge noted that Extension has expanded its range of educational programs and services to include prevention programming for families and communities. For example, a curriculum package called "Talking with TJ" is aimed at children in grades 2-5 and teaches them how to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways. It is available at no charge to teachers by contacting the local county office of the OSU Extension Service.

Other curriculum packages are available from the national Cooperative Extension System, such as "Rethink," an anger management program for parents and teens.

"These are just two of many programs that have been used successfully around the United States. They are successful because they build skills in children, parents and teachers rather than focusing on kids alone," said Sally Bowman, OSU Extension family development specialist.

Bowman said that programs aimed at instilling good behavior in youngsters are based on four key principles:

- Supportive communities, neighborhoods and schools; - Family support and supervision;

- Positive peer relationships and social competence; - Positive view of self and future.

OSU Extension, which has offices in every county in Oregon, has a long history of partnering with schools and communities to provide programs that incorporate these key principles.

For more information, contact the local county office of the OSU Extension Service.