Youth Summits: Law-Related Education for Violence
Prevention. ERIC Digest.
by Leiterman, Hannah
The youth summit, which engages adolescent students, public officials,
and lawyers in discourse and deliberation about critical social problems
and legal issues, is becoming a popular method of law-related education.
This Digest discusses (1) the youth summit concept in law-related education,
(2) examples of youth summits across the United States, (3) support for
youth summits by organizations of lawyers and educators, (4) best practices
for youth summits, and (5) resources for youth summits.
THE YOUTH SUMMIT CONCEPT IN LAW-RELATED EDUCATION.
Youth summits are an important part of law-related education, especially
as they address violence prevention. Youth summits bring together students
from diverse backgrounds and ask them to work with adults to confront social
problems and issues that affect them. Participants have a chance to present
their ideas and opinions to policymakers. Thus they can influence law and
government through resolution of public issues. By involving young people
in solving the problem of youth violence rather than imposing a "treatment"
on them, youth summits have a positive impact on young people's behavior
as responsible citizens. Youth summits also offer opportunities for participants
to learn new skills and knowledge, and instill in young people a sense
of responsibility for developing and participating in solutions to the
challenges facing their communities.
The models used in many states include pre-summit activities for students
and/or teachers, such as law-related education lessons, surveys, background
research, and assignments focusing on youth violence. During many summits
students develop "action plans" to prevent violence in their schools and
communities. Follow-up summit activities include service learning projects,
school-based summits, and reports. Youth summits bring diverse experts
and speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including police chiefs, juvenile
justice officials, college and university professors, members of Congress,
lawyers, judges from various courts including the state supreme court,
television personalities, and many others.
YOUTH SUMMITS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.
The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Youth
for Justice Program has been promoting youth summits since 1995. A variety
of models are used, varying in size from fewer than 50 students to over
a thousand. Summits take place in a variety of venues, from school auditoriums
and state courthouses, to churches and local TV stations. They cover a
plethora of topics important to young people, such as substance abuse and
Some summits modify the standard youth summit model to attract special
audiences. A "Girls' Summit" in Florida, sponsored by the American Association
of University Women, addressed summit topics of importance to young women,
such as teen pregnancy and date rape. Other summits go beyond state borders
to bring together even wider audiences. An online "Junior Summit," hosted
by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, involved students
ages 10-16 from around the globe, discussing, in a variety of languages,
projects that addressed important world problems.
A National Online Youth Summit conducted in 1999-2000 by the American
Bar Association Division for Public Education brought together 1500 high
school students from 26 states in "virtual communities" to discuss timely
legal and public policy topics of special interest to young people, such
as the death penalty and toxic waste disposal. The summit's culminating
activity allowed students to "chat" with the lawyers who had argued the
case in question before the Supreme Court, as well as other legal experts.
SUPPORT BY LAWYERS AND EDUCATORS.
The Wyoming Youth Summit is a striking example of what can be accomplished
through the collaboration of bar associations, law-related education programs,
and students. The Wyoming Bar Association and Foundation have cooperated
with the Wyoming LRE Council to develop highly effective youth summits
that provide students in Wyoming with opportunities to meet one another
and explore ways to prevent violence. In the course of the 1995 Summit,
for example, the 75 students attending decided that Wyoming should pass
legislation to create teen courts. The students visited the state capital
to make presentations in support of teen courts to House and Senate Judiciary
hearings. Their lobbying was a success; teen court legislation passed in
1996. Subsequently, the state bar association and the Wyoming LRE Council
cooperated to create teen courts in four Wyoming cities. The resources
of the Wyoming Bar Association allowed the LRE Council to develop a youth
summit that will have lasting impact on the students involved, as well
as young people throughout the state -- the future beneficiaries of the
teen courts created by the summit.
With a grant from the Lincoln National Corporation in Fort Wayne, Indiana,
the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association partnered with
local organizations to create "Youth Empowerment Summits" for middle and
high school students in 22 cities. One such summit occurred in Fort Wayne,
Indiana in May 1998. A planning committee of six public school students
and two Catholic school students developed a format in which adult leaders
planned the logistical aspects of the summit, while the students selected
the topics. Three topics were chosen: teachers' strikes, diversity, and
"dangerous choices." The Young Lawyers invited a diverse group of 170 seventh
and eighth graders from public schools and Catholic schools in Allen County,
Indiana to attend.
They developed a program using the Youth for Justice "Youth Summit Planning
Guide." One session featured a television talk show format with a panel
of teachers, two student moderators, and the superintendent of the local
school district, who discussed a teachers' work slowdown and contract negotiations.
In other sessions, students presented skits on party/drinking scenarios,
and local hospital resource people discussed statistics on teen pregnancy
and gun violence. The summit was so successful that the schools involved
in this event expected it to be conducted annually.
BEST PRACTICES FOR YOUTH SUMMITS.
Successful youth summits involve the students in some aspect of development:
using their advice and opinions by surveying them in advance, including
them in planning on an advisory board, or covering topics of their choosing.
Student involvement during the summit -- debating, role-playing, discussing,
etc. -- is also important. Students retain knowledge and skills better
when they learn actively, and they show greater dedication to achieving
the goals of the summit when they assume responsibility for developing
In summary, the most effective practices for youth summits are:
* involving students in the planning process
* active learning of knowledge and skills
* examining topics relevant to young peoples' lives
* involving community members from legislatures, social service agencies,
and the legal profession
RESOURCES FOR YOUTH SUMMITS.
The following resources are recommended to organizers and participants
in youth summits:
* American Bar Association Division for Public Education -- Youth Summits:
Includes information on youth summits and in-depth profiles of youth summits
around the U.S., as well as youth summit links and resources. Also, the
directory of LRE programs at http://www.abanet.org/publiced/lre/main.html
includes links to the Web site of every state program that offers youth
summits. For more information about youth summits, or to order a copy of
"Technical Assistance Bulletin No. 18: Youth Summits: Engaging Young People
in Violence Prevention," call (312) 988-5735, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago: http://www.crfc.org/
Includes the "Youth Summit Planning Guide" in downloadable format; curricula;
student guides; a survey; information, graphs, and statistics on past summits;
and links to other law-related education and issues-related Web sites (e.g.,
guns, date rape, hate crimes); call (312) 663-9057.
* Minnesota Center for Community Legal Education: http://www.ccle.fourh.umn.edu
Information and pictures from past summits, links to the text of the legislation
future summits will explore, and links to summit speakers and sponsors.
* National Online Youth Summit: http://www.abanet.org/publiced/youth/youth99.html
The American Bar Association Division for Public Education's innovative
new national youth summit is profiled here, along with background materials
and teaching activities for various summit topics.
* 21st Century Schoolhouse Biennial Summits: http://www.viser.net/~gs21/biennial.htm
Features extensive information on the organization's 1997 summit, including
a detailed agenda, opening remarks, participants' work, and photographs
from the international delegations; information on the 1999 summit; and
information about the organization.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES.
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare
this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are available in microfiche
and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS).
For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite
110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400
and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, annotated monthly
in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from commercial reprint services.
Corvo, Kenneth N. "Community-Based Youth Violence Prevention: A Framework
for Planners and Funders." YOUTH AND SOCIETY 28 (March 1997): 291-316.
EJ 542 132.
Kivel, Paul, and Allan Creighton. MAKING THE PEACE: A 15-SESSION VIOLENCE
PREVENTION CURRICULUM FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, Inc.,
1997. ED 415 300.
Perry, George S., Jr. YOUTH SUMMITS: YOUTH AND ADULTS AS PARTNERS IN
VIOLENCE PREVENTION. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1995. ED 402 233.
Prothrow-Stith, Deborah B. "Violence Prevention in the Schools." NEW
ENGLAND JOURNAL OF PUBLIC POLICY 10 (Summer/Fall 1994): 107-122. EJ 536
Wolfe, David A., and Others. ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE: EMPOWERING YOUTH
TO DEVELOP HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications,
Inc., 1997. ED 405 420.
Wright, Norma. FROM RISK TO RESILIENCY: THE ROLE OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION.
Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1994. ED 377 123.