Fourth R Programs

Our contention is that relationship knowledge and skills can and should be taught in the same way as reading, writing, and arithmetic, and therefore we refer to the classroom-based curriculum as the Fourth R (for Relationships). This curriculum consists of lessons that meet the Ministry and Department of Education learning expectations and outcomes. The program is taught in the classroom, using a thematic approach to reduce risk behaviours including:

  • Violence/bullying
  • Unsafe sexual behaviour
  • Substance use

Importantly, many of these adolescent risk behaviours overlap because they occur in the context of relationships. The Fourth R program addresses these adolescent risk behaviours by focusing on relationship goals and challenges that influence their decision-making.

A Whole-School, Universal Prevention Approach

Involving all adolescents in education about safety and risk, rather than just those who show problems, builds resiliency for future difficulties. A universal approach precludes the need for identifying youth and reduces the stigma of being labeled high risk. Through this program, all students are better equipped with the skills they need to build healthy relationships and to help themselves and their peers reduce risky behaviours.

The Fourth R consists of a comprehensive, school-based program designed to include students, teachers, parents, and the community in reducing violence and risk behaviours. It is important that young people be given information that will help them make good decisions, and are shown positive relationship models that will demonstrate alternatives to the negative examples they frequently see in the world around them.

In addition to the classroom component, the Fourth R seeks to involve the school and community in delivering positive messages to youth. Teachers are engaged through the delivery of the program. Students are engaged through active learning, peer mentoring, and role modeling of appropriate behaviours. Parents are engaged through outreach and communication about the program. Finally, these strategies build bridges between community agencies and the school community to increase access to resources and services for youth.

The Fourth R is listed on several national registries for effective (model) and promising practices, including:


SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices

Ontario Bullying Prevention Database

Canada National Crime Prevention Registry & Public Safety Canada Promising and Model Crime Prevention Programs


CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs - Middle and High School Edition

Public Health Agency of Canada Promising and Best Practices Portal

National School-Based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Consortium

U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Crime Solutions

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Model Programs Guide

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