Profile No. 54

Straight Talk About Risks (STAR), Center to Prevent Handgun Violence -- Washington, DC

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to teach gun safety.

Program Goal:
To reduce unintentional childhood gun
traumas, injuries, and deaths.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Children and youth in prekindergarten through grade 12.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:

Evaluated by:
Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, MA.

Contact Information:
Alicia Horton
Center to Prevent Handgun Violence
Education Division
1225 Eye Street NW.
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202­289­7319

Years of Operation:

The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence developed the STAR curriculum in response to the escalating number of gun-related deaths of children and teens. STAR is a prekindergarten through grade 12 curriculum that educates students about the risks of handling guns and enables them to recognize situations that may lead to gun-related injuries, identify trusted adults, make safe choices, combat negative peer pressure, and resolve conflicts nonviolently. The goal of the program is to reduce childhood gun trauma and fatalities by providing the curriculum to schools, youth agencies, and community-based organizations. The curriculum is based on focus group research conducted by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, and on a joint pilot program with the Dade County, FL, public schools. The Center worked closely with teachers, guidance counselors, students, and parents to develop the curriculum. A team of national experts in child development, injury prevention, curriculum design, crime prevention, and law enforcement provided a critical review prior to STAR's publication in 1992.

The activities presented in the curriculum include: (1) learning and practicing gun safety skills that can be used outside the classroom; (2) self-reflection and role-playing using typical coping mechanisms for anger and fear; (3)setting personal and societal goals for change; and (4) developing competency and leadership skills to address gun safety issues with peers and the community. The STAR program teaches younger children how to behave safely when a gun is encountered, how to resist peer pressure to play with or carry guns, and how to distinguish real-life violence from television violence. For older children, the program offers activities that teach coping skills, decisionmaking skills, refusal skills for resisting peer pressure, and conflict management skills. In addition, STAR provides information to parents to ensure that guns and other weapons are not accessible to their children. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about the dangers of guns and consequences of gun violence. Currently, STAR is being used in more than 90 school districts nationwide as part of police-led crime prevention efforts and in conjunction with recreation and health education programs.

An independent research firm, Education Development Center, Inc., conducted a formative and preliminary impact evaluation of STAR. The evaluation was designed to examine STAR implementation and student outcomes and included participant self-reports, direct observation, teacher interviews, and student group interviews. Educators found STAR to be developmentally and culturally sensitive, and the program has been well received and generally rated positively by younger students. However, student enthusiasm for the program declined with grade level. The evaluators believe that this is not unique to STAR and indicates only that innovative methods for engaging older students need to be incorporated. Additionally, educators indicated a need to enhance the program through practice and reinforcement throughout the school day and for all subject areas. Student impacts were assessed using an evaluation design involving pretesting and posttesting of treatment and comparison groups. STAR was found to be most effective for increasing gun safety knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of students in grades 3 to 5.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report