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The columbine effect and school antiviolence policy

New Approaches to Social Problems Treatment

ISBN: 978-1-84950-736-3, eISBN: 978-1-84950-737-0

Publication date: 5 February 2010


Purpose – This chapter explores the problem of school shootings as a source of anxiety and fear in schools. Such fear has generated calls for security in schools and has been a catalyst for the development and deployment of antiviolence policies in schools.

Methodology/approach – The chapter begins by examining the development of the Columbine Effect, which is a set of emotions surrounding youth social problems, particularly violence in schools. This Columbine Effect is then explored in relation to its role in the development of policies to mitigate the problem of school violence. These purposes are linked using a multilevel typology of school violence and their sources, created by Henry (2009).

Findings – The chapter explores the levels of violence addressed by six antiviolence policies: crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), zero tolerance, anti-bullying programming, emergency management planning, peer mediation, and school climate programming. The analysis indicates the level(s) of violence each type of policy is designed to address and identifies research evidence regarding the efficacy of each policy. The analysis also focuses on the unintended consequences of school antiviolence policies, especially those which reduce violence on one or more levels, while exacerbating the problem on other levels.

Research limitations/implications – The analytical approach was selective, rather than exhaustive. Nonetheless, the analysis has suggested a number of ironies concerning the unintended consequences of antiviolence programming in schools. This suggests the need for broader analysis in this area.

Practical implications – The analysis identifies a number of detrimental effects that have resulted from school violence policy initiatives ranging from the socialization of youth toward a society of control and authority. In addition, the chapter helps to clarify the (often negative) effects of hype about violence in schools.

Originality/value of chapter – Although not often connected, this chapter explores the intersection between the discourse of school violence (typically, a social problems framing concern) and the development of school antiviolence policies (typically, an applied social scientific concern).


Muschert, G.W. and Peguero, A.A. (2010), "The columbine effect and school antiviolence policy", Peyrot, M. and Lee Burns, S. (Ed.) New Approaches to Social Problems Treatment (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 117-148.



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