PeaceBuilders: Prevention of Youth
Violence is Community Effort

By Genie Stoker
A Village Life Exclusive

If someone says "schools have changed a lot," what comes to mind? More pocket knives, black eyes and foul language? In one Arizona community's elementary schools, the reverse is actually happening. Tucson schools that use the PeaceBuilders program show a 13% drop in visits to the school nurse for injuries and a 50% drop in referrals to the principal's office for misconduct. Teachers report a 10-30% increase in the time that can be spent learning.

PeaceBuilders is a community-wide program, developed by Tucson child psychologist Dennis Embryn. A grant from the Centers for Disease Control has helped PeaceBuilders expand so that it now reaches more than 200 schools in 20 states. To surround the children with values of a caring lifestyle, the PeaceBuilders program involves the entire community -- homes, churches, businesses, police and news media.

Results are positive. Parents notice their children become more cooperative and concerned for others. Teachers notice that students are fighting less and focusing better on their studies. As one elementary teacher remarked, "I see the kids caring about each other, really caring."

The program targets children between 5 and 10, with the goal of reaching as many children as possible before adolescence. Some children have been skeptical about PeaceBuilders, thinking it's for wimps. But they find it take courage to actively build peace and the results are worthwhile. The 5 to 10 year olds are especially interested in learning new communication skills, new ways of preventing fights and de-escalating anger. As one parent commented, "the children were looking for help. They wanted a better way to get along."

How Does PeaceBuilders Work? It helps both children and adults learn the language of empathy. Dr. Embry, himself a Sunday School teacher, has rooted PeaceBuilders in principles consistent with the Bible and with national research on youth violence. Since violence results when people feel threatened, PeaceBuilding helps children feel less threatened, more supported and valued by their family, friends and community. The program does not single out children with a tendency toward violence, but works with all children in a school, church or family, teaching everyone to care for one another. Here are the five cornerstone principles:

Here are some of the specific techniques:

First aid for anger

What if a child is acutely upset? Peace coaches are trained in techniques for calming people:

Meet the Author of Peacebuilders

PeaceBuilders has been authored by Dr. Dennis Embry, PhD, a specialist in child psychology. He works with Michael Krupnick, a specialist in health care marketing and counseling, and with Kim Lauger a mother and foster mother with a background in pediatric nursing. PeaceBuilders is a part of Heartsprings, Inc. of Tucson an organization specializing in violence prevention and recovery.

PeaceBuilders is funded in part by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control. Schools and churches that use the program help pay for materials and training. Volunteers at each PeaceBuilding site serve as Peace Coaches. There are also opportunities for businesses and public agencies to be involved in this community-wide effort.

For information on PeaceBuilding materials and workshops, call 1-800 368-9356 or 1-520-322-9977. Or write to Heartsprings, Inc., PO Box 12158, Tucson, AZ 85732. Fax 1-520-299-6822. PeaceBuilders also can be found on the web or by email [email protected].

PeaceBuilders is a registered trademark.

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