CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will host the fifth annual Violence Prevention Summer Institute July 12-14 and the conference already has reached capacity with more than 800 professionals pre-registering.
Interest in the annual conference - which is aimed at educators, agency representatives, counselors and other professionals - has intensified following the shootings at Thurston High School in 1998 and at Columbine High in Colorado earlier this year.
The theme for this year's conference is "Creating Safe Learning Environments for Youth."
"One of the most important ideas that will be discussed is a systems approach to preventing violence," said Rebecca Donatelle, an associate professor of public health at OSU and a conference organizer. "It's not just a question of educating parents, or regulating the media. It's much more complicated than that. In a system's approach, parents, the media, schools, community groups, religious organizations, government agencies and students would work together to plan, develop, implement and evaluate strategies aimed at prevention.
"These would start early and include a full spectrum of age groups, diverse populations and special needs," she added.
The conference is sponsored by a number of groups, including the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Commission on Families and Children, the Governor's Office, the Oregon Health Division, the Oregon State Police, OSU's Department of Public Health and others. The primary organizer of the conference, John Lennsen of the Oregon State Department of Education, has been a leading proponent for violence prevention over the last decade.
It will be headquartered at OSU's CH2M-HILL Alumni Center, with some programs scheduled at the adjacent LaSells Stewart Center.
Invitations to the conference were issued to teachers, administrators, counselors, school psychologists and nurses, other health professionals, community and parent organizations, law enforcement agencies, youth and family programs and others.
The conference will feature a number of speakers, workshops, special interest tracks, roundtable discussions and other events, including a dramatic presentation. Many of the topics will focus on violence and youths, but presenters also will examine domestic violence and other forms of violence.
The opening session on Monday, July 12, will include a workshop called "Creating Safer Schools by Taking Advantage of Three Decades of Oregon Research." During the workshop, speakers will present the results of numerous studies of anti-social and asocial individuals in the Oregon State Prison and other rehabilitation systems. It is designed to give teachers strategies to help students deal with risk factors the may lead them to violent or criminal behaviors.
Among some of the other workshops scheduled include:
- "A Global Approach to Violence," which looks at how violence manifests itself differently to various societies.
- "Managing Uncivil Behavior," an exploration of the dynamics of anger and hostility, and the risks they present. The workshop is designed to increase participants' awareness of anger, hostility and aggression, and give them tools to help diffuse those behaviors.
- "Drugs and Violence," an analysis of the relationship between drugs and violence, including trends in drug abuse such as high-potency marijuana and methamphetamines.
- "Intervening in Domestic Violence in the Home, School and Community," will include specifics on myths and truths regarding power, control and gender differences.
- "Teaching Respect: Creating Safe and Affirming Schools for All, Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity," will outline the challenges facing gay youth and the educators who work with them.
- "When Teens Kill Themselves," will discuss suicide, the second leading cause of death among Oregonians ages 10-19.
- "School Crisis Response: Are You Prepared?" A look at the effectiveness of school crisis plans and collaboration between schools and local agencies in all crises.
- "Working on Violence Prevention in an Urban Environment," will examine how prevention efforts in different communities have worked.
- "Gangbusters: Strategies for Prevention and Intervention," will look at the social and environmental factors that contribute to youths joining gangs, and the mindset of gang involvement.
- "Law-Related Education and Sexual Harassment Prevention," a presentation about Law-Related Education and how it differentiates between freedom of expression and sexual harassment, and recent court cases that clarify sexual harassment law.
Interest tracks will look at even more diverse topics, ranging from the benefits of tai chi to using arts for violence prevention, to tragedy response teams.
Keynote speakers at the institute include Michael Leeds, of Michael Leeds and Associates; Robin Karr-Morse, author of "Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence," and Mervlyn Kitashima, coordinator of a parent-community network in Kauai and a participant in the "Kauai Longitudinal Study on Resilience."
The "team approach" is a central theme for the conference, said Donatelle, who has been conducting anti-violence training programs or teaching violence prevention in OSU's Department of Public Health for 10 years.
"Controlling violence is something that needs to be approached from a broad perspective," she said. "Gun control alone won't make a difference. Neither will diversion programs. Violence is woven into the very fabric of our society and there seems to be an increasing disrespect for life and property. Its pervasiveness won't be solved without a unified effort."