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School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program

Ages 6-17

Rating: Level 2


The School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program uses civic education to ameliorate or diminish tendencies toward violence among youth. The program operates from the theory that the development of responsible citizenship skills, both intellectual and participatory, can play a defining role in the way students act and think.

The first phase—the pilot year of the program—was conducted in seven school districts in the United States: Los Angeles (Calif.) Unified, Denver (Colo.) Public Schools, Jefferson County (Colo.) Public Schools, Wake County (N.C.) Public Schools, Philadelphia (Pa.) Public Schools, Community School District 30 (Queens, N.Y.), and District 23 (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Public Schools. The School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program curriculum consists of three sets of materials:

  • We the People… The Citizen and the Constitution teaches the essential concepts and fundamental values of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and is available at three grade (or skill) levels. It uses critical-thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, and cooperative learning techniques to develop the participatory skills deemed necessary for students to become active responsible citizens.
  • We the People… Project Citizen promotes competent and responsible participation in State and local government, by actively engaging students as they learn how to monitor and influence public policy.
  • Foundations of Democracy: Authority, Privacy, Responsibility, and Justice concentrates on four concepts fundamental to understanding politics and government. The Authority unit of the material helps students distinguish between authority and power, understand sources of authority, use reasonable criteria to select people for positions of authority, and evaluate rules and laws. Students are also taught to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues relevant to the concept of authority. The Privacy unit uses many of the tools first introduced in Authority to aid students in understanding the importance of privacy in a free society. The Responsibility unit impresses the importance of personal and social responsibility as well. The Justice unit brings the preceding units together to help students consider the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of society, fair responses to remedy wrongs and injuries, and fair practices for gathering information and making decisions.

The curriculum emphasizes performance-based learning outcomes, with We the People… The Citizen and the Constitution culminating in a simulated congressional hearing and We the People… Project Citizen ultimately producing a problem-solving portfolio. These activities seek to promote social cooperation and positive group memberships, and they encourage positive attitudes toward social inclusion and tolerance for the ideas of others.


The program was evaluated using a quasi-experimental design with control groups, pretests, and posttests on knowledge and attitudes. Control groups receive their district’s regular social studies or history classes integrated with civics components. Quantitative and qualitative measures are both being used to determine the program’s effect during the course of the school year. Qualitative measures were assessed through focus groups, teacher questionnaires, and interviews of the students and parents. The program was implemented in grades 6 through 8 in large urban public school districts.

Research included gathering both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data included statistical results gathered from pretest and posttest of knowledge of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and an attitudinal survey. Qualitative data included the results of focus groups in each of the seven sites, the teacher questionnaires, and classroom observations. Both the knowledge test and the attitudinal survey were administered to middle and upper elementary students during September and October 1999 and again in May and June 2000. The tests were given to 4,184 experimental group students who participated in the instructional strategy and 1,765 students in control groups who did not receive the instruction. Analysis of covariance was used as a statistical tool to control for preexisting differences between the control and experimental groups.

The attitudinal test measured four target areas of violence prevention. Those areas were “respect for authority and the law,” “tolerance for the ideas of others,” “inclusion of all people in the social and political process,” and “demonstrated sense of civic responsibility.”


The evaluation found that there were statistically significant gains in knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in all seven cities and statistically significant positive shifts in attitudes toward police and authority figures in six of the seven districts. In Queens and Denver, there were statistically significant gains (when compared with control group gains) in the experimental group students’ sense of civic responsibility and in their tolerance for the ideas of others and inclusion for all people in the political process. Queens also had a statistically significant positive shift in relation to authority and the law.

Qualitative information was gathered using focus groups, classroom observations, and teacher questionnaires. Qualitative data was quite positive. There was clear improvement in teacher morale and confidence in teaching about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in all seven districts. Teachers appreciated and enjoyed receiving high-quality social studies textbooks in sufficient quantity, receiving professional development in an important area of their responsibility, meeting with teachers from other schools and other districts, and learning new teaching strategies. The teachers indicated that they gained appreciation for the power of performance-based assessment strategies. They also improved their knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. New teachers acquired skills, and experienced teachers indicated that they felt renewed by their participation in the program. Teachers also indicated that the students demonstrated a greater interest in civics, government, and social studies as a result of participating in the program.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources
  • Rewards for prosocial community involvement


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


Maguin, Eugene, and Rolf Loeber. 1996. “Academic Performance and Delinquency.” Crime and Justice 20:145–264.

Rosen, Louis. 2001. School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program: May 1999–June 2000. Calabasas, Calif.: Center for Civic Education.


Maria Gallo
Center for Civic Education
5145 Douglas Fir Road
Calabasas, CA 91302–1440
Phone: (818) 591-9321
Fax: (818) 591-9330
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Jerry Wartgow, Superintendent
Denver Public Schools
900 Grant Street, Room 702
Denver, CO 80203
Phone: (720) 423-3300
Fax: (720) 423-3318
Web site: