CRIME PREVENTION & YOUTH ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMING
I once had a coach who said “The great masters of any endeavor or profession are masters not because they understand the complicated intricacies of what they do, but because they know how to make the complicated so simple in practice that it appears too easy.” The world of school safety is not so complicated if you know how to break down its many parts and create a few categories for each piece to fit into - All aspects of school safety can fit perfectly into six categories: PREVENTION, PROTECTION, MITIGATION, RESPONSE, RECOVERY & REBUILDING. This entire post is about a team of individuals and the work they’re doing in the prevention world of educational safety, how and what they’re teaching, and the need to incorporate their messaging/program into your current educational environment.
Prevention in the world of school safety often goes overlooked because it’s not sexy enough to make the headlines of any major newspaper, but that doesn’t mean prevention isn’t of significant importance for a school’s safety planning and educational programming. In fact, I would argue, as would many others in my profession would that prevention tactics and programming is the most cost-effective and beneficial way to create a learning environment where students not only come to get educated but come to feel safe and protected from their outside world.
"...prevention tactics and programming is the most cost-effective and beneficial way to create a learning environment where students not only come to get educated but come to feel safe and protected from their outside world."
There are a few basic things a school can do to lessen future acts of “student on student” violence, crime, bullying and drug/alcohol abuse and many other potential educational heartaches - namely, create and use a tip-line in which students, teachers, counselors and community members can call in, text info to and access through an online portal to report suspicious and malicious behavior. Another important addition to overall campus safety is the continued and expanded use and role of School Resource Officers, but with an overall amplification of their need to be confidants, mentors and respected educational figures in their school environment. From a preventative angle, the last (not by importance) addition to creating safer learning environments in school systems that needs to be addressed and incorporated into every learning environment nationally is crime prevention and youth assistance programming like what we’re about to dive head first into with the remainder of this post.
Today I had the pleasure of spending the day with the Baird family, the creators and providers of an exceptional crime prevention and youth assistance program for schools going on its 15th year running in Indiana referred to as “Listen to the Dog.” Why was I so impressed with this program and its approach to preventing crime and violence in schools? Well, besides the facts that they’ve funded the program themselves for 15 years while never saying no to a presentation request, the fact that they devote their free time and personal energy into working with thousands of children annually in Johnson County Indiana with the goal of helping to prevent crime and violence in their communities county wide, knowing that they provide this training free to schools and knowing that they freely give away their programming to counties all across Indiana and the nation with the hope to better protect all of America’s children, and if all of that isn’t enough to impress someone, they have designed their programming to meet kids on their grade level and on topics that fit into the threats that face children depending on their age.
Unlike many other crime prevention programs around the country which teach the same thing year after year to the same audiences regardless of how many times they’ve heard it or how old the child is, “Listen to the Dog” has broken down their education into 6 current parts to match k-5 grade children and how their brain works best to absorb information. The program never repeats itself and no child ever hears the same information twice from grade to grade unless the particular section being presented is designed to overlap certain aspects from one year to another for added saturation purposes and to provide extra emphasis about recurring themes in safety for children.
(K) - Personal Safety
(1st) - Bullying
(2nd) - Gun Safety
(3rd) - Drugs & Alcohol Awareness
(4th) - Internet Safety
(5th) - Decisions & Consequences (and K-9 demo)
Another exemplary aspect of their programming is the fact that they incorporate purposeful and deliberately created cartoons into each grade’s presentation which does even more to reach a child on their own level of understanding regarding sometimes difficult topics being discussed.
(Author’s Note) I watched 850 students today all come into an auditorium at 100+ a pop per age group and sit quietly and with excited anticipation as “Listen to the Dog” delivered presentations at over 30 minutes a clip. Think about that for a second - kindergarteners through 5th graders coming into an auditorium and sitting quietly and with patience for over 30 minutes each time while visually having fun at the same time… WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN? On top of that they use a dog in their presentations which has a unique way of capturing the hearts and minds of the children in the room.
I am grateful for everyone out there around the country putting on safety minded programming for children, and I welcome any groups out there doing outstanding work to contact me and let me sit in on your presentations so I can tell the world about what you’re doing, but today I was blown away by the Baird family and for having the chance to witness masters at work making the complicated process of talking to children ages 5-12 about some serious safety topics look so simple and proficient.
For anyone out there in law enforcement and/or elementary education looking to incorporate crime prevention and youth assistance programming into your school's safety plans I would highly recommend reaching out to the Baird family and doing whatever it takes to get their program “Listen to the Dog” in your schools as fast as possible.