Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism IN Schools (2022-2023)
Robert Örell (left) and Tony McAleer lead a training for school Care Teams, March 2023
BRAVE Schools works in partnership with middle and high schools throughout Western Massachusetts to proactively engage students and staff in preventing violence and strengthening resilience.
About the Program
Students today are struggling in their mental health, social lives, and sense of belonging. Unfortunately, this increases their vulnerability to recruitment from hate groups, and students today report being regularly exposed to hate online. At the same time, mass shootings are increasing. Older teens are the age cohort most likely to engage in serious violence.
School communities provide vital support to youth. This project works with the whole school community to strengthen each school’s resilience to violence and extremism.
Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism in Schools (BRAVE Schools) focuses particularly on building student resilience against the spread of hate groups and violent extremism, and preventing future acts of targeted violence.
We use a whole-school approach in middle and high schools to engage a range of students and staff in problem-solving issues that could hinder a positive, safe school climate. Our aim is to enhance school capacity to recognize and address the often-unacknowledged factors that can lead youth down a path toward violence and hate.
BRAVE Schools works by training and supporting a Care Team to lead project implementation within each school, engaging students as well as staff in the process of building awareness and improving violence prevention.
The project objectives are:
- Learn to identify risk factors and early warning signs
- Understand factors that build student resilience
- Create/strengthen integrated systems that support struggling youth, assess behaviors, and provide tiered responses to prevent violence
- Co-design processes with students
- Embed proactive violence prevention strategies in the school culture
- Improve safety of school climate for everyone
BRAVE Schools combines Karuna Center’s dialogue-based practices with the expertise of two trainers, Robert Örell and Tony McAleer. Both are renowned leaders in creating pathways for people to avoid or exit hate groups, and are themselves former violent extremists who were recruited as youth.
The Alliance for Peacebuilding—a network of 165+ organizations working in 181 countries, of which Karuna Center is a member—will design and lead the project’s monitoring and evaluation processes, as part of their work to learn about and amplify effective strategies for local peacebuilding in the United States.
Karuna Center’s BRAVE Schools project is one of 43 recipients nationwide funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, opportunity number DHS-22-TTP-132-00-01, and takes a public health approach to violence prevention. This year’s grants were announced in conjunction with the White House’s United We Stand Summit on hate-fueled violence.
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Radical Compassion: Overcoming Hate and Building Understanding
A conversation with Loretta Ross, Tony McAleer, and Robert Örell (3/20/23)
Through the lens of the speakers’ lived experiences, we learn about the current context of hate groups and ideologies that promote hatred; the factors that lead people to join violent extremist groups; and the place of radical compassion in confronting the spread of hate in our communities.
KARUNA CENTER AWARDED FEDERAL GRANT TO PREVENT TARGETED VIOLENCE AND HATE IN WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOLSDownload (.docx)