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Doctor has solution to stop school violence

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A recent study showed about 33-percent of high school students reported being involved in a physical fight in the last year. Nearly seven-percent of teachers reported being threatened or physically injured by a student. How can we make schools safer for everyone?

It can happen in the classroom, the hallway or the cafeteria. When students get angry, violence is often the result.  More than 700,000 young people are treated in the ER for injuries that happen from physical assaults. Vanderbilt orthopedic trauma doctor Manny Sethi has seen it too often.

"I think it's a problem that is getting worse every day," said Sethi, M.D., Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Trauma at Vanderbilt University and Director of the Vanderbilt Orthopedic Institute Center for Health Policy.

Sethi stepped out of the hospital and into the classroom – implementing a program that reached nearly 2,500 middle school students.

The program teaches kids how to calmly solve conflicts.  A pilot study showed it works! At least one-third of students better understood how to solve heated situations without violence. And one out of four felt safer in their schools.

"I think this is really helping them to, just kind of reflect, and to take a moment before you act," said Kristian Dennison of Wright Middle School.

"Now, it's like, well everyone is not the victim of my problem, so there's no point in just going off on everybody. I should just keep it cool and keep calm, cool and collected," said 8th grader Serena Easley.

A simple program that gives students the tools to prevent a potential tragedy.

"We're reaching these kids on the front end, so on the back end; I'm not having to tell a mother at 3 in the morning that her son was stabbed multiple times in the left leg," said Sethi.

The program was most effective among seventh graders. 70-percent of them had improved attitudes toward non-violence after participating. Doctor Sethi says he's currently working on expanding the program to more schools.

Additional Information:

Youth violence can have a negative impact on the mental, economic, and sometimes physical health of a community.  In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted every two years by the CDC, 32.8% of students in grades 9-12 had been in a physical fight one or more times within the 12 months prior to the survey. Of those, 3.9% had injuries treated by a medical professional. Since around 2005, when record-keeping of school violence incidents began, the overall statistics have nearly doubled.
(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_overview_yrbs.pdf, https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-school-violence)

THE STUDY: Dr. Manny Sethi conducted a pilot study with 122 middle school students who participated in a conflict resolution program. At the beginning of the program, students were given a questionnaire to evaluate their behavior in violent situations. Upon completion of the program, they were given the same test. Results showed a decrease in victimization and violent behavior, which in turn created an increase in students' ability to deal with violent situations. Subsequent implementation of the program reached approximately 2,400 students in Nashville schools. Early childhood education and intervention programs build a strong foundation for future development. The HighScope Preschool Project is an example of a study which followed students from a preschool age until 40 years old and recorded outcomes of academic achievement, delinquency and violent crimes. The results showed a positive outcome for students who experienced the project as compared with those who did not.
(Source: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/04/intervention-efforts-curb-violent-youth-behaviors/, http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/opportunities-for-action.html, http://www.highscope.org/content.asp?contentid=219)