The School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program uses law-related education (LRE) to teach middle and upper elementary school students civic knowledge and skills that affect those attitudes which serve as early warning signs of violence. The program has important implications for the way schools make use of alternate teaching strategies, as well as education for democracy content, which may prevent violence while helping students develop into informed, effective, and responsible citizens.
Phase I, the first pilot year of the program, was conducted in seven school districts in the United States: Los Angeles Unified, Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County (Colorado) Public Schools, Wake County (North Carolina) Public Schools, Philadelphia Public Schools, Community School District 30 (Queens, New York), and District 23 (Brooklyn, New York) Public Schools. The School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program includes three sets of materials. We the People…the Citizen and the Constitution is a program that teaches essential concepts and fundamental values of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Critical-thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, and cooperative-learning techniques help develop the participatory skills necessary for students to become active, responsible citizens. Foundations of Democracy: Authority, Privacy, Responsibility, and Justice is a multidisciplinary curriculum that focuses on four concepts fundamental to an understanding of politics and government. We the People…Project Citizen promotes competent and responsible participation in state and local government. Youth are actively engaged in learning how to monitor and influence public policy.
There were statistically significant gains in knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in all seven sites and significant positive shifts in attitudes toward police and authority figures in six districts. There were significant gains between the experimental and control groups in students’ sense of civic responsibility in Queens and Denver. There were statistically significant gains in tolerance for the ideas of others and in including all people in the political and social process in Queens and Denver. Queens also had a positive shift in relation to authority and the law. Qualitative data suggested that teachers appreciated receiving high-quality social studies textbooks, receiving quality teacher training in an important area of their responsibility, meeting with teachers from other schools and districts, and learning new teaching strategies.
Most law-related education (LRE) programs provide K–12 classroom instruction designed to educate children and adolescents about the origins and roles of law in key social systems (e.g., family, community, and school) and the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Some forms of LRE have broader application, such as in street law, which draws practical connections between the everyday lives of young people and the law, human rights, and democratic values. LRE programs have been shown to be effective in improving academic performance and as a practical approach for preventing delinquency in general. In addition, there is some evidence that LRE may help prevent aggressive behavior.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Effective program
National Gang Center and OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Effective program
Center for Civic Education
5145 Douglas Fir Road
Calabasas, CA 91302-1440
Phone: (818) 591-9321
Fax: (818) 591-9330
Maguin, E., and Loeber, R. (1996). “Academic Performance and Delinquency.” Crime and Justice, 20:145–264.
Rosen, L. (2001). School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program: May 1999–June 2000. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education.