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PeaceBuilders: A theoretically driven, school-based model for early violence prevention.

Abstract: A coalition of the Pima County Community Services Department, University of Arizona, and Heartsprings, Inc. are conducting a formal evaluation of PeaceBuilders;, a school wide violence-prevention program for elementary schools. PeaceBuilders activities are built into the school environment and the daily interactions among students, teachers, and administrative staff, all of whom are taught a common language and provided models of positive behavior, environmental cues to signal such behavior, opportunities to rehearse positive behavior, and rewards for practicing it. Four schools were randoly assigned to begin Peacebuilders in Year 1. The remaining 4 school begin in Year 2. Outcome assessments include student self-reports, standardized teacher reports, playground observations, and school and law enforcement records. Process assessments include school observations and surveys of teacher practices and satisfaction. Surveys were completed by 2,736 children (K-5th grade). Among Ss in grades 3-5, during the past week 15% had been sent to the office for disciplinary problems, 13% tried to start a fight, 27% hit someone, and 12% reported being threatened with a gun or knife. These findings show that violent behaviors and experiences are common among the studied children.

Relevance to PAXIS’ Work: This study is the first randomized, longitudinal trial (RCT) of whole school behavioral supports.  This RCT preceded randomized trials  of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports  (PBIS) by more than a decade. The study is powerful demonstration of how to empower students and staff to create a more positive, peaceful and productive school. This study is foundational to PAXIS’ thinking that behavioral protocols should be done with students, distressed, vulnerable or historically discriminated groups rather than done “to” them. This study embodies our commitment to empower all to have voice and influence in their empowered futures.