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By Cameron Fox, Safe and Sound Schools Teen Ambassador

Through the Safe and Sound Schools Youth Council (SSYC), students can get the resources to easily create a school safety council within their own communities.  I recently started my own chapter- the Summerville Youth Safety Council at my school, Summerville High in South Carolina.

In our first meeting, we brainstormed issues and areas of importance to improve our school’s safety.  Many people believe that implementing more physical safety features such as cameras, windows, and locks, are the only ways that schools can become safer.  While physical safety measures are extremely vital to a safe and secure school, our council asked ourselves questions like, ‘What other methods could impact the feeling of safety?  What could the student body do to promote change?’  We came up with 4 ways students can make schools safer.

Build relationships between students and school staff

I believe that creating a familiarity with the school’s staff can encourage students to report safety concerns.  Many students that I have spoken with are more comfortable speaking to a teacher rather than an administrative officer.

The council members and I came up with the idea of a Teacher-Student Breakfast held at the high school.  The event will allow students to really get to know their teachers. This is important because the bond between teachers and students has a big impact on the safety of a school.

Know the difference between ‘snitching’ and reporting

Many students fear retaliation from peers, and become discouraged when it comes to reporting a threat.  However, they don’t understand the greater risk of not saying something about suspicious activity. Speaking up can impact everyone in the school community.  Students that report can save lives.  This aspect of school safety is extremely powerful, and helps prevent potential threats.

Get to know the physical safety measures & protocols at school 

My chapter realized that students within our high school don’t recognize the physical safety devices employed on campus.  It is important to make them more aware about what these devices are and how they are used. I believe that educating students about this equipment is a simple way to empower students, and evoke a better feeling of safety.

Taking the 2019 State of School Safety Survey 

Safe and Sound Schools has created a survey that allows students, teachers, and parents to share their thoughts on school safety.  This is an easy, yet important, method to encourage individuals to speak about how safe they feel.  This survey will gather your feedback and point out the topics that are trending across the nation. Just make sure you complete the survey here by Thursday, April 4, 2019!

I hope this blog post encourages other students to take action and be proactive to make their schools safer.  Click here for the step-by-step process to start your own Safe and Sound Youth Council chapter.


Cameron Fox attends Summerville High School in South Carolina.  She is a teen ambassador for Safe and Sound Schools and the reigning Miss Green Wave Teen 2019.  As a titleholder within the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization, her advocacy platform is “Feeling Safe and Secure in Schools.”  Cameron is an active member of the local Dorchester Task Force for School Safety, and her goal to ensure a safe learning environment for youth.  She works to inspire students to utilize their voices and become leaders in their school communities.

 

Students make the best teachers. They are the eyes and ears of their schools…. the leaders of movements… and the galvanizers of change. In all the years I’ve spent traveling around the country, I’ve met some incredible students who are just as inspired as we are to create a nation of safer schools.

As excited as I was to meet these students, and thrilled that they understand the need for school safety, I felt frustrated that there wasn’t a way for them to turn their ideas into action. So fueled by their passion and bright ideas, we talked to our network of experts, students, teachers and administrators to build a new program: The Safe and Sound Youth Council.

The Safe and Sound Youth Council gives students a seat at the table and brings them into the national conversation of school safety. It is a leadership program, accessible to all, and gives students the support they need to assess their school’s safety, act with smart and sustainable changes, and audit their impact. At the same time, the Safe and Sound Youth Council provides them with a foundation of credibility to help bring their ideas to life.

We hope you will check out the program page to learn more about the Safe and Sound Youth Council. Please also share this program with your networks, especially any students. The faster we can get more Safe and Sound Youth Council chapters off the ground, the closer we’ll come to creating a nation of safer schools.

So thank you to Kaia, Noah, Trey, Makenzi, Colby, Anthony, John, Julia, Olivia, James, and the countless other students who helped bring to life this unique and empowering program. At Safe and Sound Schools, we will never give up, and thanks to the new Youth Council program, we can bring the students into the conversation and foster a new generation of champions who won’t give up, either.


Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools

 

In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we discussed the popular Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why.” We concluded Part 1 by discussing the alarming statistics surrounding youth suicide, findings that have lead many schools to push for mandatory suicide prevention efforts and training in schools.

At the time of this writing, 26 states have passed legislation, either recommending or requiring suicide prevention training for school personnel. Training requirements vary, but the most accepted standard is:

  • One hour of training annually on the warning signs of suicide
  • School referral and support services for identified suicidal students

The majority of states have only addressed the need for training. However, a few states have also addressed the need for schools to have policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. Several states have addressed the need to identify high risk youth for suicidal behavior, which include LGBT youth, homeless youth, children in foster care, and children living in a home with a substance abusing or mentally ill family member.

The Jason Flatt Act has passed in 19 states and extensive information is available at jasonfoundation.com. JF, a leader in the suicide prevention national movement, focuses on the need for suicide prevention training in schools. Every state that has passed the Jason Flatt Act can access free online trainings on their website. I am proud to share that with my colleague, Rich Lieberman, we have created five modules for the JF on the following topics:

  • Suicide and LGBT
  • Suicide and bullying
  • Suicide an and NSSI suicide
  • Suicide and depression
  • Suicide postvention

It is very important that school community members, such as administrators, counselors, school psychologist, nurses and social workers, familiarize themselves with the legislative recommendations and all requirements pertaining to their state. These key school community members need to make a commitment to stay current in the field of youth suicide prevention. One way to do that is to sign up for the free Weekly Spark from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The Weekly Spark provides a summary of trends and research emailed on a weekly basis. School community members can also assist their community by collaborating with suicide prevention advocates, making sure to identify resources for prevention in their community.

If your state has not passed related legislation, then please be an advocate for suicide prevention in schools. If your state passed legislation, then ensure that the legislative initiatives for your state are followed at your school. One place to start is to ask your school for the formation of a suicide prevention task force.

The Jason Flatt Act has passed in the following states: Tennessee, Louisiana, California, Mississippi, Illinois, Arkansas, West Virginia, Utah, Alaska, South Carolina, Ohio, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Georgia, Texas, South Dakota, Alabama and Kansas.

States with legislation for suicide prevention in schools other than Flatt Act:Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Netflix’s program “13 Reasons Why” caused many schools to take action and alert parents of their many concerns regarding the show’s message and portrayal of suicide, but now it is time for schools to take action to prevent youth suicides by training school staff and developing suicide prevention plans.


Dr. Scott Poland is on the advisory board of Safe and Sound Schools and has a long background in schools and suicide prevention. He is the author and co-author of five books, from the 1989 book, Suicide Intervention in Schools, to the 2015 book, Suicide in Schools. He is the co-author of the Suicide Safer School Plan for Texas and the Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide for Montana. He can be reached at spoland@nova.edu