Youth violence prevention program - The Fourth R - joins Western Education

By: Cory Habermehl
Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Today’s educators and policymakers are under enormous pressure to find ways of addressing and preventing all forms of school violence, including dating violence, homophobia and bullying.

Addressing these issues is not easy. However, by using the Fourth R – a curriculum- based program that promotes violence prevention through healthy relationships in youth – those charged with finding a solution have been able to make significant progress.

Researchers from Western’s Faculty of Education and educators from the Thames Valley District School Board developed the Fourth R in 2001 in conjunction with London Ontario’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The program has been running out of CAMH since that time and, to date, has been adopted by more than 5,000 schools in Canada and the U.S.

This ongoing success led program coordinators David Wolfe and Ray Hughes to seek out opportunities for collaboration and growth. They found those opportunities at Western’s Faculty of Education, and as of March 7, the Fourth R will officially become part of the Faculty’s Centre for School Mental Health.

“We’re extremely excited about becoming part of the Faculty of Education,” said Wolfe. “With the talented people and rich resources at the Centre for School Mental Health, we’ll be able to spread the Fourth R further and help more students than ever before. All of Canada will benefit from this move.”

Based on the idea that education needs to involve more than the traditional three R’s – reading, riting (writing) and ‘rithmetic (arithmetic) – the Fourth R program emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships in addressing and preventing violence. Faculty members Claire Crooks and Peter Jaffe were part of the Fourth R's initial development and ongoing research, so the move to Western is a natural fit. Moving the program also brings considerable benefits to Centre faculty members and graduate students.

“We’re training the next generation of child mental health researchers,” said Claire Crooks, Centre Director and professor at the Faculty of Education. “This program provides them with an incredible opportunity to work with the program in its current form and continue to develop new, evidence-based ways to help it evolve and help even more students in Canada and around the world.”

Bachelor of Education students stand to benefit as well, as the Fourth R program will now be integrated into the Faculty’s BEd curriculum. The move ensures the next generation of teachers is well versed in, and able to teach, school safety, healthy relationships and student health and well-being promotion.

To emphasize the importance of education in personal safety and violence prevention, the Fourth R team has also pledged funding for two new student scholarships that will be available to students in September, and they bring more than $500,000 to the Faculty through SSHRC and private foundation funding to help further expand the Fourth R and subsidize its Canada-wide dissemination.

The move also means the addition of two more experts to the Faculty of Education, as both Hughes and Wolfe take positions at Western along with their program.

"I received my BEd from Western in ’79 and my MEd from Western in ’87,” said Hughes. “Having the Fourth R at Western completes the book-end for my 37 years in education. I couldn't be happier.”