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Survey looks at students' perceptions of violence

Forty-three percent of Las Cruces alternative education students surveyed by New Mexico State University criminal justice professor Lisa Bond-Maupin and her students said that violence was something they were concerned about, but the majority said they were at least somewhat confident about their ability to deal with violence.

who indicated they feel 'very confident' about dealing with violence said they felt they were able to use their intelligence and their verbal skills to avoid violence and de-escalate confrontational situations," Bond-Maupin said.

The research, a project that combines learning and community service, is the result of a request from Mayor Ruben Smith's Violence Steering Committee for current statistics about youth violence in Las Cruces. The survey, designed by Bond-Maupin, was administered to students between 11 and 20 years old. About 76 percent of the respondents were Hispanic, 52 percent were male and 48 percent female.

Most of the 482 students who responded to the survey indicated they had experienced some violence. Eighty-eight percent indicated they had witnessed or been involved in violence at school. Eighty-three percent indicated they had experienced violence among their friends or peers, 62 percent in their neighborhood, 58 percent at home and 32 percent said they had witnessed or been involved in violence in a girl/boyfriend relationship.

Bond-Maupin said most described physical "fighting" as the form of violence they were most familiar with. Two-thirds of the respondents indicated that alcohol, drugs or gangs contributed at least somewhat to violence among their friends.

Students surveyed also were asked to rate the safety of the various places in their lives. Sixty-five percent said they felt "very safe" at home, 32 percent said the same about their neighborhoods, 16 percent about school and 13 percent about the city.

The survey was first introduced in December 2000 at the Mayor's Youth Summit on Violence but yielded a small response, so Bond-Maupin volunteered her students to finish the project.

"This was an opportunity, as a university-based researcher, to offer my research skills in assisting people in the community with the collection of important information needed to do sound planning for violence prevention," she said.

Bond-Maupin worked with Rosalie Gallegos, director of instruction for alternative programs in the Las Cruces Public Schools, to administer the survey randomly to alternative program students in attendance on the days the survey was distributed during spring 2001. Results were presented earlier this semester.

"The results of this survey will validate programs and allow us the data needed for additional programs and services," Gallegos said. "It also will assist us in services needed for at-risk youth in Las Cruces."

Gallegos said the survey results will be part of the end-of-the-year reports to the state and federal departments of education.

Based on areas of concern developed by community representatives, the survey asked youth about many areas including their perceived level of safety in a variety of settings, the extent to which gangs, drugs and violence are factors in their lives, their level of concern about violence, their working definition of violence and ideas about the causes of violence.

"People vary in their perceptions of and experiences with youth violence, so this will help give a clearer overall picture," Bond-Maupin said.

Although the survey was anonymous, it also evaluated each young person responding by asking about their internal and external supports, their involvement in extra curricular activities and their worries and dreams.

"This collaborative research offers me the opportunity to give students firsthand experience with applied research and to make connections between course material and the experiences of youth in our community," Bond-Maupin said. "It also gives students the opportunity to participate in problem solving about violence, an important part of them feeling empowered as citizen scholars."

Bond-Maupin said it was important to note that the sample for this research was limited to those enrolled in alternative education programs and does not provide information about students in the Las Cruces Public Schools as a whole or any schools specifically.

Julie M. Hughes
May 28, 2002