FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASENIJ
TUESDAY, AUGUST 18, 1998202/307-0703

SCHOOL CRIME MAY DECLINE WHEN STUDENTS

ARE INVOLVED IN THE PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- High school students who are given the opportunity to be included in the problem-solving process may help reduce crime and violence in schools, according to a research project sponsored by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and performed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The report's initial findings were announced today by NIJ Director Jeremy Travis during the School Safety and Security - Plans into Action: Creating and Maintaining Safe Schools and Campuses Conference hosted by the Security Management Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York.

"One of the most powerful concepts being tested in the criminal justice system world these days is the notion of problem-solving," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis. "This report demonstrates that students play a critical role in the problem-solving process with school officials, police, community leaders and peers."

The School Safety Program was incorporated into a social studies curriculum in one high school in Charlotte, North Carolina during the 1994-1995 academic year. The problem-solving curriculum was developed by teachers and research staff and integrated into a social studies course required of all 11th-graders. A second high school in Charlotte with similar characteristics was selected as a control school, and did not show similar improvements.

Fear levels and crime incidents declined at the test school during the academic year while remaining steady or increasing slightly at the control school. Further, conditions in the classroom improved in the test school. The number of teachers who reported spending most of their time dealing with disruptive students in the beginning of the project year dropped by 50 percent by the end of the year.

The program, which was designed to bring together students, teachers, administrators and law enforcement to identify problems and effective responses to those problems, has three major components: regular meetings among faculty, administrators and the police; problem-solving classes for the students; and regular reviews by the police and teachers to identify difficult students. Students identified and prioritized problems through discussion, analysis, solution methodology and evaluation.

The study found that those who have the most to gain-students-should be full partners in identifying, explaining and developing responses to problems. In addition, researchers found that most problems in schools are not necessarily issues traditionally considered to be most important, such as gangs and drugs. Most conflicts discussed during this project were related to everyday school interaction. The researchers also revealed that students are interested in creating a safer, more orderly school environment.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice, is the primary sponsor of criminal justice research and evaluations of programs to reduce crime. For additional information about NIJ, the Internet address is http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij. General information about the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

The Research Preview is available on the Internet at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij, or from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) by calling toll-free, 1-800/851-3420.

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NIJ 98-177

After hours contact: James Phillips at 888/491-4487 (pager)