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School-Wide Approaches to Prevention of Antisocial Behavior

School-wide preventive efforts can significantly reduce the amount and cost of school failure and antisocial behavior, and may involve as small an investment as 10 to 15 dollars per student, annually (Walker, Horner, Sugai, Bullis, Sprague, Bricker, and Kaufman, 1996). These interventions have the greatest potential to not only establish a positive school climate, but to divert mildly at-risk students from antisocial behaviors that can become patterns that lead to negative school outcomes. Primary interventions, when implemented consistently, can solve 75 percent to 85 percent of student adjustment problems (Walker et al., 1996). Schools that employ primary prevention successfully display eight characteristics:

  • school environments that are marked by high academic expectations, clear and positive behavioral expectations, and the valuing of students,
  • training to enable school staff to apply positive and proactive approaches to school discipline,
  • support for students, teachers, and staff that enable them to meet expectations,
  • student-centered instruction,
  • collaboration with family, community, and service providers,
  • links with other school reform efforts, and
  • leadership that does not give up on students and is committed to serving all students (Osher, 1996).

Schools can play an important role in preventing antisocial behavior. School-wide strategies include teaching both students and staff to implement rules and policies that make a classroom or a school operate effectively. Strategies also may include targeting behavior in halls, lunchrooms, and school buses, and teaching conflict resolution, emotional literacy, and anger management skills to all students.

Newman Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, demonstrates how a proactive, school-wide disciplinary program and well trained teachers can work effectively with students whom teachers often find to be behaviorally challenging. The program employs a positive, proactive approach to school discipline marked by clear expectations and concrete rewards. A "student-friendly" video has been prepared to introduce students and families to these expectations. At the beginning of each year, and upon entering the school, students are provided with support that enables them to meet behavioral expectations (e.g., demonstrations and role plays). In addition, behavioral expectations are visible in the halls and classrooms - both on the walls and in student and teacher interaction (Osher, 1996).

School-Wide Program for Instruction in Social Competency

In a local elementary school in Tampa, Florida, each Monday begins with school-wide instruction on social competency. The principal discusses the "social skill of the week," over the public address system. Target skills may include waiting your turn or accepting the answer "no". All classes then view a video that models the appropriate use of the social skill through a closed-caption viewing system. Throughout the rest of the week, the skill is reviewed and practiced, both school-wide and in classrooms. This procedure has been very effective in improving social behaviors and interactions throughout the school, and has resulted in a marked decrease in disciplinary referrals to the principal.


Osher, D. (1996). Working with students who are behaviorally challenging: A preliminary report. Washington, DC: Chesapeake Institute.

Walker, H.M., Horner, R.H., Sugai, G., Bullis, M., Sprague, J.R., Bricker, D., & Kaufman, M.J. (1996). Integrated approaches to preventing antisocial behavior patterns among school-age children and youth. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 4(4), 194-209.


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