Creating Safer Schools

PhotoDuring the past decade in America, educational opportunity has gradually eroded in the Nation's schools. That opportunity has been undermined by violence and the fear of violence. Yet the Nation's basic precepts are intact: to provide educational opportunity, foster individual accomplishment in a diverse society, and preserve guaranteed rights and freedoms for all citizens.

Numerous prevention and intervention strategies have been outlined here, each developed to ensure that the Nation's schools are able to educate children in safe environments and that all youth have the opportunity to learn, grow, and mature as socially responsible citizens. Although these strategies are a good starting point, more such interventions are needed. Through the efforts of educators, law enforcement officials, and parents -- working in concert to implement these strategies and continuing to test new ones -- it is possible to reduce the violence found in today's schools and create safe schools in every community.

Parents and Schools Succeeding in Providing Organized Routes to Travel (PASSPORT) is a joint effort of the Visalia Unified School District, Visalia Police Department, parents, and community-based organizations. The California program provides supervised routes for students to use when traveling to and from school in high-crime or gang-oriented areas. Parents receive a letter and map that indicate recommended travel routes.

Parent volunteers stand in front of their homes and "just watch" during specified hours. Fights, intimidating behaviors, or unsafe activities are immediately reported to the nearest school or to other appropriate agencies. While on duty, parents wear badges bearing the school name and district logo; the back of the badge lists phone numbers for the school, the district student services office, confidential hotlines, and the gang suppression unit. Participating businesses along the route display bright yellow signs in their windows. These businesses have agreed to allow students to use the phone if they are threatened or intimidated. Students may remain at the business location until their parents pick them up.

School administrators and the safe school coordinator routinely monitor and walk the PASSPORT routes, and the police department regularly patrols the PASSPORT communities and routes. Media publicity about PASSPORT encourages all citizens to watch over schoolchildren to ensure their safe passage to and from school. The program depends on cooperative, volunteer efforts; actual dollar costs are minimal.

For more information, contact Ralph Lomeli, Safe Schools Coordinator, Visalia Unified School District, 315 East Acequia, Visalia, CA 93291, 209-730-7579.

Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  April 1998