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Improving Collaboration on School Safety Issues

Suggestions for working with students, parents, community residents, and law enforcement personnel.

Working with Students

Most of the following ideas and activities require initiation by administrators and teachers. Once students experience the positive results of the activities, however, they likely will assume the responsibility for maintaining such activities.

  • Initiate programs to promote student responsibility for safer schools. Create a "student leader" group consisting of leaders from all formal and informal campus groups. Assist this representative group in modeling and encouraging school safety activities among their peers. Student government representatives can also form a student safety committee to identify safety problems and solutions.
  • Encourage student input in district and school site policy. Appoint one or more student representatives to the school board and/or school site council. These students would participate in discussions and planning but not be voting members.
  • Coordinate student courts. Student judges, lawyers, jurors, bailiffs and court clerks, trained by local justice system experts, hear and try cases involving fellow students. Student courts make real judgments and pass real sentences.
  • Purchase conflict resolution curricular materials that will provide staff and student training in solving problems and conflicts. Enlist student mediators to calm tensions among classmates and to provide a positive influence on school climate.
  • Establish local branches of student safety groups, such as Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) and Arrive Alive, which sponsor alcohol free social activities. Consider promoting student and parent groups that provide rides home to teenagers who have been drinking.
  • Develop a "buddy system."  Assign current students to newcomers to facilitate easy transitions. Assign older, bigger students to look out for students who seem to be bullied by others.
  • Plan a community beautification campaign for the school and neighborhood using students as a work crew. Graffiti and vandalized areas should be priorities. With professional guidance, students can help maintain campuses, parks and other community areas. Beautification projects enhance the appearance of the community and develop a strong sense of pride among participants.
  • Create and publicize safety incentive programs that share a percentage of the districts savings with schools if vandalism is reduced. Such programs encourage students to take responsibility for vandalism prevention. Often students are allowed to help decide what projects to help fund.

Working with Parents

In Discipline: A Parent's Guide, the National Parent Teacher Association identifies parents' main responsibility: Set a good example. Children learn more by parents' actions than from parents' words. Parental pride and involvement in the school sets a positive example for children.

  • Make time for any parent who wants to meet. Treat visiting parents as colleagues in the business of educating children. Always listen before talking, parents often just need to be heard. Try to conclude sessions with a commitment of support from parents.
  • Develop a parent-on-campus policy that makes it convenient and comfortable for parents to visit the school. Get the program off the ground by inviting an initial group of parent participants who can spread the word. Initiate breakfast or lunch clubs for working parents. Flexible meeting times will accommodate working parents.
  • Develop a receptive, systematic policy regarding meeting with parents. Many parents are concerned about their children's educational progress and safety, about school policies and programs, and about taking a proactive part in bettering the school climate. Ensure that parents are treated with respect and courtesy as colleagues in education and development of their children.
  • Call parents at home or even at work to congratulate them on a child's special achievement or to thank them for support on a special project. Short letters of appreciation or thank-you notes are also very well received.
  • Help establish a policy in which parents become financially liable for damage done by their children. Parents and children need to be made aware of the serious consequences for criminal actions. (This already is state law in many parts of the country.)

Working with Community Residents

Just as communities work together to prevent crime with "Neighborhood Watch" programs, local residents can mobilize to make schools safer. Such mobilization efforts target community residents without school-aged children. It is essential to communicate to this critical group that they do have direct as well as indirect relationships to local schools. Public opinion polls suggest that the more citizens are involved in schools, the more likely people are to have a favorable opinion of schools.

  • Educate parents about California child firearm access prevention laws requiring the safe storage of firearms and ammunition in the home.
  • Hold a series of briefings for community residents to inform them about school problems directly affecting the neighborhood. Property values decline when vandalism, crime by truants and drug trafficking. Form "School Watch" programs in which neighbors around the school are asked to watch for and report suspicious activities to school or law enforcement officials. Post signs on the school grounds: "This school is protected by a neighborhood School Watch." Solicit advice from community residents and conduct follow-up meetings to keep community representatives updated on progress.
  • Start a "Safe House" program that recruits responsible community residents. Children learn that homes posting "Safe House" signs are safe places to go if they are in danger or need assistance. Volunteers need to be carefully screened before they are accepted as participants.
  • Use outdoor posters or school marquees to announce school events to area residents; invite their participation or attendance. Roadside signs declaring, "A community is known by the schools it keeps," also has been used to stimulate community partnerships.
  • Recruit parents, community residents without school-aged children, retired teachers and senior citizens to form a welcoming committee to greet new residents. Enlist volunteers to provide information, answer questions about school activities, encourage participation and prepare school activity packets for distribution.
  • Use school facilities to offer adult education classes and health clinics. Course topics can range from arts and crafts to exercise and aerobics to income tax preparation. These classes are beneficial to community residents and integrate them into the school community. Encourage senior citizens to participate in "adopt-a-grandparent" activities. Time and experience are prized assets in all public relations planning, and senior citizens are often able to supply those two commodities. The most important outgrowth of such enlistment is the development of mutual respect and appreciation among students, school personnel and seniors.
  • Recruit senior citizens in your community to participate at local schools. Arrange for seniors to make school presentations to history classes about public attitudes and "firsthand" experiences during significant times in our country's history. Small group discussions, facilitated by senior volunteers, can be especially educational. Seniors can also participate as teacher or staff aides, student advisors, mentors and tutors, special activity organizers, playground supervisors and dance chaperones.
  • Issue "Golden Apple Cards" to senior volunteers who work on school projects. The cards could allow free or reduced-price admission to school programs such as musical concerts, plays or athletic events.
  • Help integrate students and senior citizens by arranging for students to visit senior centers, convalescent centers or retirement homes. Students can present plays and musical programs; home economic classes can prepare special meals; art classes can decorate the facilities; and engineering or shop classes can make small repairs. Younger children particularly can add a great deal of joy with regular visits to seniors. Some school groups may wish to participate in programs.

Working with Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers and school personnel represent highly trained professionals who have the welfare of the students and school community in mind. Annual planning sessions and monthly meetings with law enforcement representatives, district administrators and school employees can provide the opportunity for reciprocal briefings on safety issues and prevention and intervention strategies.

  • Request a risk management or safety assessment of your schools by local law enforcement agency personnel. This procedure will validate safety concerns and help establish response strategies.
  • Establish an "Officer Friendly" program at your schools. Invite local law enforcers to make presentations to students on child safety, drug abuse prevention, and juvenile justice practices and policies. Visiting law enforcers can demonstrate tools of their trade, including trained police dogs, breathalyzers and emergency vehicles. When students become comfortable in relating to law enforcers, students learn to further appreciate both the officers and the laws they enforce.
  • Coordinate student and staff "ride-along" programs. The one-on-one time with officers on patrol is an effective means for law enforcers to gain respect and inspire confidence.
  • Work with law enforcement and parents to fingerprint young children as a safety measure. Fingerprinting is usually done at a school site by law enforcers. The prints then are given to the parent or guardian.
  • Pair law enforcers with high-risk youths, similar to the "Big Brother" program. Such relationships can be an important step in changing delinquent behavior patterns.
Questions:   Coordinated School Health and Safety Office | 916-319-0914
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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