Partnering with Schools to Prevent Violence and Hate

Schools are at the center of conflicts that affect the safety and wellbeing of youth, families, and communities across the United States. As the nation becomes more politically polarized, and the youth mental health crisis continues, young people are at greater risk of being targeted and harmed—and many are also vulnerable to becoming involved in hateful or violent ideologies or groups themselves. Hate crimes are on the rise, and so are mass shootings—increasingly perpetrated by older teens and young adults. How can schools work effectively to prevent violence within their walls and beyond, and help safeguard their communities? 

Educators are in a unique position to identify, and constructively engage, youth who are at risk of becoming involved in violence and hate. School communities can also play a powerful role in establishing new norms for dealing with conflict and difference in these challenging times.

BRAVE Schools (Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism in Schools) is a new Karuna Center project that partners with middle and high schools in the U.S., beginning with a pilot of eight schools in our home office community of Western Massachusetts. The project works to build youth resilience to violence and hate, strengthen restorative approaches to discipline, and foster a safer, more fully inclusive school community. 

BRAVE Schools held its first workshops in March and April of 2023 (photo above), focusing on developing and supporting Care Teams who lead the project’s implementation within each school—building on their existing strengths and expertise.

The Alliance for Peacebuilding—a network of 165+ organizations working in 181 countries, of which Karuna Center is a member—is leading BRAVE Schools’ monitoring and evaluation processes, as part of their work to research strategies for local peacebuilding in the U.S.

Photo above: A training of school Care Teams in March 2023. Below: Our March 2023 talk, Radical Compassion: Overcoming Hate and Building Understanding, with (from left) scholar-activist Loretta Ross, BRAVE Schools co-trainers Tony McAleer and Robert Örell, and Karuna Center director Polly Byers.

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