WMU News

Curbing violence in schools

Aug. 9, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Col., has focused attention on school violence, while reports of young people bringing weapons to school have become commonplace. How can schools cope with this growing problem?

"What I'm seeing is a more punitive approach to violence prevention," says Dr. Marianne Frauenknecht, a WMU associate professor of health, physical education and recreation. "How we seem to handle the problem is to punish kids for bringing a weapon to school. I really think we're missing the boat."

What's needed is better teaching of social skills, especially in the early grades, Frauenknecht says. Those skills include problem solving, conflict resolution and communication. Rather than concentrating on removing children from school after they are causing problems, schools would be better off focusing on preventive strategies directed at children in grades four to six.

"That's the ideal time to start a program to have the greatest success," Frauenknecht says. "My research shows that violent behavior is actually most prevalent in middle school if you include things like verbal abuse, but it may not be the most horrific. It's at the high school level that it explodes into more horrific forms of violence, which gets attention from the media while things happening on the middle school level go unnoticed."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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