Violence prevention program grows

On April 20, School of Education professor Michael Rozalski delivered a lecture titled "School Violence Prevention: Investigating the Efficacy of a Multi-Year, Tiered Intervention in Local Schools."

The lecture focused on Rozalski's research regarding Second Step, "a violence prevention program designed to foster effective anger management techniques in students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade." Second Step is one of several violence prevention programs currently used in U.S. classrooms. The program relies on both teachers and parents to use a variety of media including picture books, songs, videos and puppets to convey violence prevention themes to their students.

According to Rozalski, the Genesee Valley Health Partnership was awarded an initial grant to purchase and implement the Second Step program in numerous Livingston County schools in 2001. Rozalski became involved in 2005 when he was hired by GVHP to explore supplementary methods that could be added to the Second Step curriculum to increase the efficacy of the program.

"[Teachers] realized that they had a small group of students who responded [to Second Step] a little bit, but also needed some extra support," Rozalski said. "We started collecting initial data and then continued to find out, ‘is this actually causing students to have fewer problem behaviors, and more importantly, demonstrate more pro-social attitudes?'"

Rozalski's research over the recent years suggests that bibliotherapy should be integrated into the Second Step curriculum. Bibliotherapy uses an individual's relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. According to Rozalski, bibliotherapy allows teachers to better incorporate Second Step within their established lesson plans and further involves parents in the teaching process outside of the classroom.

"We worked with the parents, we sat down, we trained them, we identified the curriculum … and that's when we started seeing some real changes in [student] behavioral patterns," Rozalski said.

Rozalski is currently working to develop a free, online database that will provide both teachers and parents with supplementary materials including booklists for use alongside fixed-curriculum violence prevention programs like Second Step. Rozalski said that the presence of an online database would benefit schools that are unable to afford the implementation of full programs.

Rozalski said violence prevention programs need to be accepted by a majority of teachers and parents before any positive effect can be produced.

"If you get your teachers involved, if you get your administrators on board, then you can cause a change [in student behavioral patterns]… but you've got to be comprehensive," Rozalski said.