Court TVs Choices Has an Impact: Study

Washington -- With the nation still reeling from the recent
onslaught of deadly school shootings, Courtroom Television Network's middle-school
anti-violence curriculum, "Choices and Consequences," has proven to be an
effective tool to increase student empathy and decrease violent behavior, according to a
study released last Wednesday.

"The goal of Court TV is keeping our nation's youth
out of our nation's courts," president and CEO Henry Schleiff said. "Shootings
and other tragic events get a lot of headlines. Working on solutions and grinding out
details do not."

The study, conducted by the University of California at
Santa Barbara's Center for Communication and Social Policy, was based on the experiences
of 500 seventh- and eighth-graders in three Southern California middle schools that
participated in the program.

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who chairs the House
Subcommittee on Telecommunications, encouraged other cable companies to follow suit and
distribute this curriculum to schools throughout the country.

"It is a good example of cable stepping up to the
plate and using education and the media to provide a concrete solution to the complex
issue of youth violence," Tauzin said.

The curriculum consisted of three real-life court cases
involving adolescents who did not think of the potentially fatal consequences of their
practical jokes.

Each week, students were presented with an episode --
"Teen Pranks," "Daring Your Friends" and "Stop Sign." In the
latter, three teens stole a stop sign, which led to the car accident and death of three
young men.

"Foolish choices made in an instant could have tragic
consequences for a lifetime," Schleiff said.

The episodes included actual courtroom footage of the
defendants and the victims' families. Teachers supplemented each episode with group
discussions and written homework assignments.

The study found that students participating in the Choices
and Consequences curriculum also increased their legal knowledge.

By writing essays and responding to questions that asked
students to relate to each of the characters, students indicated an increase in their own
levels of empathy, according to the study.

The middle-school classes were randomly selected to be part
of either the experiment group, which received the curriculum, or the control group, which
did not.

After watching the videos, students were asked to evaluate
their own levels of verbal and physical aggression. The students in the experiment group
decreased their level of aggression, while the level of physical aggression in the control
group increased during the same period.

"This change is statistically significant. We could
conclude that Choices and Consequences had the effect of preventing the increase in
physical aggression that occurs in schools," UCSB communications professor Dr.
Barbara Wilson said.

Choices and Consequences is sponsored by AT&T Broadband
& Internet Services, Time Warner Cable and other cable companies.

"I think this is one of the most noble things we have
done," AT&T Broadband president and CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr. said. "[These
court cases] are real. That perhaps is the most compelling way to teach young

But corporate financial support is crucial to these
educational projects, Schleiff said.

"Having a cable partner like Leo [Hindery] is
imperative for these projects to continue," he added.

Court TV created Choices and Consequences in 1997 in
response to the National Television Violence Study. The study found that television
glamorizes violence and violent perpetrators and seldom depicts its harmful consequences.

Court TV plans to create more episodes of Choices and
Consequences, which are also shown on the cable network.

States News Service