Improving Collaboration on School Safety IssuesSuggestions 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.