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Gun Violence Prevention


"What does the research say about school-based K–12 gun violence prevention programs?"

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Crooks, C. V., Scott, K., Ellis, W., & Wolfe, D. A. (2011). Impact of a universal school-based violence prevention program on violent delinquency: Distinctive benefits for youth with maltreatment histories. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(6), 393–400.

From the Abstract:
"Objective: Child maltreatment constitutes a strong risk factor for violent delinquency in adolescence, with cumulative experiences of maltreatment creating increasingly greater risk. Our previous work demonstrated that a universal school-based violence prevention program could provide a protective impact for youth at risk for violent delinquency due to child maltreatment history. In this study we conducted a follow-up to determine if participation in a school-based violence prevention program in grade 9 continued to provide a buffering effect on engaging in acts of violent delinquency for maltreated youth, 2 years post-intervention. Methods: Secondary analyses were conducted using data from a cluster randomized controlled trial of a comprehensive school-based violence prevention program. Students (N = 1,722; 52.8% female) from 20 schools participated in 21 75-min lessons in grade 9 health classes. Individual data (i.e., gender, child maltreatment experiences, and violent delinquency in grade 9) and school-level data (i.e., student perception of safety averaged across students in each school) were entered in a multilevel model to predict violent delinquency at the end of grade 11. Results: Individual- and school-level factors predicting violent delinquency in grade 11 replicated previous findings from grade 9: being male, experiencing child maltreatment, being violent in grade 9, and attending a school with a lower perceived sense of safety among the entire student body increased violent delinquency. The cross-level interaction of individual maltreatment history and school-level intervention was also replicated: in non-intervention schools, youth with more maltreatment in their background were increasingly likely to engage in violent delinquency. The strength of this relationship was significantly attenuated in intervention schools. Conclusions: Follow-up findings are consistent with the buffering effect of the prevention program previously found post-intervention for the subsample of youth with maltreatment histories. Practice implications: A relatively inexpensive school-based violence prevention program that has been shown to reduce dating violence among the whole student body also creates a protective effect for maltreated youth with respect to lowering their likelihood of engaging in violent delinquency"

Farrington, D. P., Gaffney, H., Lösel, F., & Ttofi, M. M. (2017). Systematic reviews of the effectiveness of developmental prevention programs in reducing delinquency, aggression, and bullying. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 33, 91–106. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The main aim of this article is to identify systematic reviews of the effects of developmental prevention programs. These programs are defined as community-based programs designed to prevent antisocial behavior, targeted on children and adolescents, and aiming to change individual, family, or school risk factors. Only evaluations that reported effects on the outcomes of delinquency, offending, violence, aggression, or bullying were included. In total, 50 systematic reviews were assessed: five general reviews, 11 reviews of individually focused interventions, nine reviews of family-based programs, and 25 reviews of school-based programs. It was possible to calculate effect sizes from 33 reviews. Every summary odds ratio effect size was greater than 1, indicating that all types of programs were effective. The effect size was statistically significant in all except four cases. The median effect size was 1.46, which corresponds (on some reasonable assumptions) to a decrease in aggression of about one quarter. This article makes recommendations about how to improve systematic reviews and concludes that more investment in developmental prevention is warranted."

Fiedler, N., Sommer, F., Leuschner, V., & Scheithauer, H. (2019). Student crisis prevention in schools: The NETworks Against School Shootings Program (NETWASS)–An approach suitable for the prevention of violent extremism? International Journal of Developmental Science, 13(3-4), 109–122.

From the Abstract:
"The standardized, indicated school-based prevention program "Networks Against School Shootings" (NETWASS) combines a threat assessment approach with a general model of prevention of emergency situations in schools through early intervention in student psychosocial crises and training teachers to recognize warning signs of targeted school violence. The present review summarized the underlying program theory, gives examples from German cases of severe targeted violence, gives an overview of the program components, and a summary of the evaluation study and its results. Finally, the NETWASS crisis prevention approach is reflected with regard to its feasibility for the prevention of violent extremism."

Goodrum, S., Thompson, A. J., Ward, K. C., & Woodward, W. (2018). A case study on threat assessment: Learning critical lessons to prevent school violence. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 5(3), 121. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This qualitative case study examines the way school officials implemented the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education’s principles for threat assessment with a specific student of concern, who underwent a threat assessment and later shot and killed a classmate and himself on school grounds. The data came from deposition testimony from 12 school and district staff familiar with the student and the case and more than 8,000 pages of school, district, and law enforcement records. The findings suggest that district and school officials need to monitor the implementation of the threat assessment process with students of concern. Specifically, the threat assessment team should include 4 to 5 members from multidisciplinary perspectives; team members should complete a comprehensive threat assessment training program; threat assessed students should receive regular check-ins and support; and districts and schools should use an empirically validated threat assessment tool. Finally, educators should consider relying on a continuous improvement model to monitor implementation of threat assessment principles and procedures."

Holly, C., Porter, S., Kamienski, M., & Lim, A. (2019). School-based and community-based gun safety educational strategies for injury prevention. Health Promotion Practice, 20(1), 38–47. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Nearly 1,300 children in the United States die because of firearm-related injury each year and another 5,790 survive gunshot wounds, making the prevention of firearm-related unintentional injury to children of vital importance to families, health professionals, and policy makers. Objective. To systematically review the evidence on school-based and community-based gun safety programs for children aged 3 to 18 years. Study Design. Systematic review. Method. Twelve databases were searched from their earliest records to December 2016. Interventional and analytic studies were sought, including randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, as well as before-and-after studies or cohort studies with or without a control that involved an intervention. The low level of evidence, heterogeneity of studies, and lack of consistent outcome measures precluded a pooled estimate of results. A best evidence synthesis was performed. Results. Results support the premise that programs using either knowledge-based or active learning strategies or a combination of these may be insufficient for teaching gun safety skills to children. Conclusions. Gun safety programs do not improve the likelihood that children will not handle firearms in an unsupervised situation. Stronger research designs with larger samples are needed to determine the most effective way to transfer the use of the gun safety skills outside the training session and enable stronger conclusions to be drawn."

Katic, B., Alba, L. A., & Johnson, A. H. (2020). A systematic evaluation of restorative justice practices: School violence prevention and response. Journal of School Violence, 19(4), 579–593.

From the Abstract:
"Despite its increasing recognition and use in U.S. schools, a limited amount of research has evaluated the effect of restorative justice (RJ) for school violence prevention and response. To date, there is no standardized method for RJ implementation. Therefore, this systematic literature review investigates peer-reviewed studies on the application of RJ practices in K-12 school settings. Ten articles were included in the review. Results of the review indicate a high degree of variability regarding the implementation and evaluation of RJ practices in schools. However, the majority of studies reported positive outcomes, including improved social relationships and reductions in office discipline referrals. The utility of RJ as a school violence prevention and intervention approach are discussed, along with future research directions."

Peguero, A. A., Yost, L., Ripepi, M., & Johnson, K. (2020). Weapons at school: Examining the significance of place. Journal of School Violence, 19(1), 77–92. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"As demonstrated in extant research, there are significant distinctions across urban, suburban, and rural communities both in the experience of school violence and in the resources allocated toward safeguarding schools from violence. What remains unknown is how the relationship between weapons at school (i.e., possession of a weapon and attacks with a weapon) and school safety policies and practices (i.e., policy against weapons, punishment practices specifically for weapons, and teacher training) differs across school locales. This study draws from the nationally representative 2015-2016 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) to address two questions about the relationship between weapons at school and school safety policies and practices across different school locales. First, do rates of weapons at school and school safety policies and practices vary across school locales? Second, if there are distinctions, how is the relationship between weapons at school and school safety policies and practices moderated by place?"

Price, J. H., & Khubchandani, J. (2019). School firearm violence prevention practices and policies: Functional or folly? Violence and Gender, 6(3), 154–167. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Firearm injuries are the third leading cause of death for youth (14% of all deaths of youth 1–19 years of age). In 2016, there were 3155 firearm deaths of youths +19 years of age. Recently, school firearm violence and school shootings have received increasing attention from school personnel, policymakers, and in the mass media. However, little is known about prevention and reduction of school firearm violence. The purpose of this narrative review is to describe the current practices regarding school firearm violence prevention and use of the disease prevention and health promotion framework to describe current practices and policies on school firearm violence prevention measures. A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted from the years 2000 to 2018 to search for school-based practices to reduce firearm violence. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to harden schools. None of the currently employed school firearm violence prevention methods have empirical evidence to show that they actually diminish firearm violence in schools. To the extent that schools adopt ineffective firearm violence prevention measures, they are creating a false sense of security. School systems need to engage in collaborative research for evidence-based practices and policy advocacy through coalition building to address state firearm laws. Schools also need to expand their mental health services and cost-effective educational interventions for reducing violence (e.g., bullying, peer mediation, conflict resolution, etc.). Hardening of schools seems to be a questionable endeavor for most schools, given the dearth of evidence regarding effectiveness."

Samuels, J. T. (2020). Interest-driven sociopolitical youth engagement: Art and gun violence prevention. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 12(2), 80–92.

From the Abstract:
"This exploratory case study examines the National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence intervention launched in Chicago in 2017 that used public art and new media creation to engage youth in activism for gun violence prevention. Five African American and Latino youth artists participated in the program; the study focuses on three of the participants experiences. The researchers goal was to determine whether the unique mix of media and education practices used to develop and deliver the intervention curriculum impacted participants art practice, understanding of gun violence, and/or self-concept. A theoretical thematic approach to coding was applied to the audio, video, and text-based data collected. The artwork developed by the youth was analyzed using visual methodologies of compositional interpretation and semiology. Findings reveal that, within this cohort of youth, activities that connected their intrinsic interests in art with work toward a cause strengthened their affinity toward sociopolitical engagement."

Thakore, R. V., Apfeld, J. C., Johnson, R. K., Sathiyakumar, V., Jahangir, A. A., & Sethi, M. K. (2015). School-based violence prevention strategy: A pilot evaluation. Journal of Injury and Violence Research, 7(2), 45–53. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Background: Violence has recently been reported among a primarily young, minority population in Nashville, Tennessee. School-based programs have been proven as effective methods of reducing violent behavior, beliefs, and actions that lead to violence among adolescents. Methods: Investigators implemented a rigorous search for an appropriate school-based violence prevention program for Metropolitan Nashville middle school students utilizing a systematic review and discussion group with victims of violence. 27 programs nation-wide were reviewed and 2 discussion groups with African American males under the age of 25 admitted to a level 1 trauma center for assault-related injuries were conducted. Our findings led to a single, evidence-based conflict resolution program. In conjunction with educators, we evaluated the program’s effectiveness in a pilot study in a Nashville middle school with high rates of violence. Results: 122 students completed the conflict resolution program and described their behavior and experiences with violence in a pre-test/post-test self-rate questionnaire. Results showed a significant decrease in violent behavior and an increase in students’ competencies to deal with violence (p less than 0.05). Conclusions: This study shows that a reduction in violent behavior and beliefs among middle school students can be achieved through the implementation of a targeted violence intervention program. A larger-scale intervention is needed to develop more conclusive evidence of effectiveness"


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: "School based", "Gun violence", Firearms, "School violence", Prevention

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.