Purpose: The purpose of the proposed 3-year research project is to implement and evaluate a restorative justice school safety initiative that 1) reduces bullying perpetration and victimization, aggression, and violence, 2) enhances school safety and mental health in middle and high school students, and 3) reduces the school to prison pipeline by diverting first offenders from the juvenile justice system into school-based Teen Courts.
Partnerships: The study will be conducted in Columbus and Robeson Counties in North Carolina. Both of these counties are rural, impoverished, and ethically diverse. Staff from the North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention will complete the research evaluation. NC-ACE is one of six CDC-funded youth violence prevention centers and the only one working in rural areas. Robeson County Teen Court and Youth Services is an agency implementing evidenced-based models of restorative justice programming and will coordinate implementation fidelity for the proposed project.
Research Design and Participants: We will conduct a rigorous experimental trial of 24 disadvantaged, rural, and ethnically diverse middle and high schools that are randomly selected to either receive school-based teen courts (n=12) or to conduct needs assessments without teen court programming (n=12). School Success Profile-Plus (SSP+) surveys collected from 4,000 randomly selected students in the 24 schools will serve as evaluation data.
Analyses: Using pretest (2015), posttest (2016), and 1 year follow-up (2017) SSP+ data from the 24 schools, hierarchical linear models will be estimated to evaluate program effectiveness in reducing bullying perpetration and victimization, aggression, and violence, and enhancing school safety and mental health. We hypothesize that bullying, aggression, and violence will significantly decrease over the court of the 3-year study, relative to the comparison schools, while school safety and mental health will improve.
Products: For specific deliverable products, we will annually publish three or more peer-reviewed, scientific journal articles, book chapters, or program manuals that: 1) articulate risk and protective factors associated with school violence and safety; 2) describe implementation strategies for components of our school safety initiative so that these new approaches can be disseminated to practitioners and policy makers; and, 3) evaluate the efficacy and cost-benefit calculations of the restorative justice initiative for promoting school safety and reducing aggressive behavior.
Impact: This will be the first rigorous experimental trial of school-based teen courts. This study will have a dramatic impact on school safety programming in the United States by validating an innovative restorative justice approach that can be disseminated to practitioners and policy makers across the country. ca/ncf