Michael Furlong and Shane Jimerson of the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara are two authors of articles in the Educational Researcher special issue: New Perspectives on School Safety and Violence Prevention (January-February 2010). The issue was published at the same time as a scheduled Capitol Hill Briefing on New Strategies for Keeping Schools Safe: Evidence-based Approaches to Prevent Youth Violence. The AERA Capitol Hill Briefing on School Safety, postponed by the February blizzard, has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 8, at 2 pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430. The issue of the journal can be accessed on the web.
The growing body of research paints a very different picture of both the magnitude and nature of school safety issues than appears in the mainstream media. While acts of mass violence are a serious concern, they are quite rare; and insufficient attention has been given to the much more pervasive forms of aggression that affect millions of students daily. Many of the popular policy solutions that have been introduced in response to concerns about the safety of children, such as zero tolerance and increased security measures, have been shown to be inadequate or even dysfunctional. A new and more comprehensive policy perspective is needed, and there is abundant research evidence to point the way. The new research to be discussed examines violence, bullying, and disruptive behavior, and reports on the harmful consequences of school environments that are unsafe or disruptive – especially for minority students – and the kind of policies and education approaches needed to maintain safety and order in our schools.
Michael Furlong, along with Matthew J. Mayer, is the author of “How Safe Are Our Schools?” The article partially concludes: “The extant data show that the safety of America’s schools has improved over the past decade but that significant concerns remain with regard to violence, theft, bullying, and intimidation, and associated harm to students. In addition, there exist neither standards for assessing the degree of seriousness of problem student behaviors nor standards of harm that distinguish between crisis events or experiences and chronic low-level victimization. Determination of what constitutes safety remains fluid and relative.”
Shane Jimerson, along with Randy Borum, Dewey G. Cornell, William Modzeleski, is the author of “What Can Be Done about School Shootings? A Review of the Evidence.” The article partially concludes: “Exaggerated perceptions of risk can lead to inefficient or ineffective policies such as zero tolerance that do little to create a sustainably safe and secure learning environment. Research on school homicides is needed to educate policy makers and the public alike in order to counter misperceptions and quell unrealistic fears and to guide the development and dissemination of effective violence prevention strategies. There is also a need for research on crisis response plans and methods for facilitating recovery after a traumatic event such as a school shooting as well as after a potentially catastrophic event has been averted.”
Both Michael Furlong and Shane Jimerson are professors in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the Gevirtz School.
[Michael Furlong and Shane Jimerson are available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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