Educators who recently attended a webinar held by the National Center for School Safety highlighted cost, sustainability, and staffing capacity as major factors when selecting a safety program for their school district.
The webinar was designed to help schools decide what programs are right for them. The speakers were Justin Heinze, an educational psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Rachel Masi, the research director for Sandy Hook Promise.
Heinze and Masi stressed that schools should start with a needs assessment and identify available resources to implement a program.
“If you identified bullying as a problem, you’re going to look more closely at programs that target bullying,” Heinze said. “But what if the one you found works for students in school, and your issue is virtual. You have to find the program that best suits your needs so that you can be successful.”
Much of that success relies on whether the program is a good match for the school’s culture, they said. And if the resources are available to continue the program after the initial launch.
When it comes to school programming, affordability is always a factor: whether you can bring the program into the school in the first place, and then how it can be sustained into the future.
“There has been a lot of chat and discussion from teachers today on the affordability of the programs and how you can sustain a program when the funding is no longer available,” Masi said. “It’s an understandable concern. Many of these programs can be quite expensive. But some organizations like Sandy Hook Promise offer their programs to schools at no charge.”
But even if the cost isn’t an issue, many educators also expressed concerns about staffing resources and what kind of training would be required. Both Masi and Heinze said it all comes down to identifying roles and responsibilities, whether you can pull in additional professionals like the school psychologist, or when you might need outside assistance.
“Buy-in is crucial,” Masi said. “If you don’t have that buy-in from the top to the bottom, it’s not going to work as well. But if the school board, administrators, parents, and students are invested in the program, that will lead to change and lasting sustainability. Otherwise, it just becomes another one of those programs that someone is doing and never takes hold. You won’t have that holistic approval.”
Masi said one of the most important aspects of success for any program is student engagement and empowerment. If they don’t embrace the program, then it won’t be successful.
“We’d found both through research and our own experiences, the real key to sustainability is student empowerment,” Masi said. “You’re trying to create an environment where the students feel not only welcome, but also safe and protected. Once you empower the students, the programs become part of the school’s culture.”
Not only does empowering students create tomorrow’s leaders, but it also helps to reduce the staffing needs of school districts. Students in SAVE Promise Clubs implement many of the programs at the local level.
It is through these Clubs that students brainstorm and create fun and exciting activities that they know will resonate with their classmates.
Where to Start
Sandy Hook Promise’s Know The Signs programs teach school communities the warning signs of someone who may be considering harming themselves or others while creating a more inclusive environment where all students can thrive. Training and other resources are also available at no cost. Find out today if these programs are right for your school.
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