About SSA: How Schools Benefit
The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) identifies “violence, victimization, and harassment at school” as an important barrier to learning. Analysis of CHKS data shows that school safety has “a very strong, positive, step-wise relationship with API scores.1 Other research suggests that “exposure to violence has lifelong effects on learning,2 and “contributes significantly to the prediction of school attendance, behavior, and grades.3 Scores of studies dating from Maslow’s pioneering research to the present day confirm that fearful students do not learn effectively or perform at their best on critical tests.
So when Safe School Ambassadors decrease bullying and intimidation, and increase the level of respect and tolerance on campus, students feel less distracted, more relaxed, and safer. They are more able to focus on learning.
These acts interfere with learning, cost money, and make school less safe. So Safe School Ambassadors are trained to notice these behaviors, and intervene to stop them before they escalate into more harmful forms of violence and create a pervasive sense of fear on campus. In this way, Safe School Ambassadors help shift campus norms and maintain a healthy and productive school climate.
Case study: Kenilworth Junior High, Petaluma, California. Administrators reported that compared to the previous year, 6 months after the launch of the Ambassadors program:
- Harassment down 50%
- Defiance down 13%
- Outside Disruption down 32%
- Bus incidents down 25%
- Sexual Harassment down 55%
Safe School Ambassadors actively model tolerance and respect in their own interactions, AND they intervene to stop intolerance and disrespect shown by their peers. Studies show that students have more influence on their peers than adults do. If 30 Ambassadors notice and intervene in one potentially hurtful situation each day, that’s 150 interventions per week, or 6000 in a school year. Since each intervention is seen by at least the perpetrator and the victim, those 6000 acts will tell the people on your campus at least 12,000 times what’s OK, and what’s not. These acts help create a campus of inclusion, where more feel welcome and less feel fear.
Moreover, research by the Search Institute (Minneapolis, MN) shows that students with increased assets - including cultural competence - have greater academic achievement, and less involvement with risky behaviors like violence, sexual activity, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
While it is hard to say exactly how many of those 6000 interventions will be to prevent or stop fights, it is certain that Administrators in charge of campus discipline will have fewer fights to deal with once Ambassadors fan out and travel the halls of a campus.
Case Study: Alta Loma Junior High, Alta Loma, California. Administrators report that 4 months after launching the Safe School Ambassadors program, suspensions are down 40% compared to the previous year.
Suspension Cost Analysis - Download a 1-page summary of the cost of suspensions, compared to the cost of the Safe School Ambassadors program
Safe School Ambassadors become your allies in school safety, intervening in brewing trouble, cooling hot spots and preventing fights. Since they are recruited from all sectors/groups/ cliques of the campus population, Safe School Ambassadors can be in places adults can’t be; they can see things adults can’t see; they can connect with students adults can’t reach . . . and they can intervene in ways adults just can’t.
Silence is consent: when no one speaks out to stop hate or violence, it becomes acceptable, and thus an increasingly regular occurrence. Even worse, silence can hurt: when no one speaks out about dangerous situations like a weapon on campus, a potential suicide, and other threats to safety, both students and adults can be hurt or killed. Since Safe School Ambassadors are trained in observation and active listening skills, they are more likely to notice or learn about such dangerous situations. Since they are valued members of a comprehensive school safety team, they are more likely to bring forward to adults they know and trust information about these threats, so help can be provided and harm can be prevented.
Ambassadors In Action:
“I am so stoked. One of my Ambassadors did the right thing! He saw a girl in the cafeteria Friday morning showing off a knife she had in her possession. He went to an A.P. because he didn’t want to risk taking it from her. The weapon was recovered by administration.” - Linda Camardella, Program Advisor. Conniston Middle School, Palm Beach County, Florida
Furthermore, Ambassadors’ attitudes, words, and actions change the social norms on campus and increase the likelihood that other students will report potentially dangerous situations to adults.
The Safe School Ambassadors program creates opportunities for students to bond to their school, especially students who do not participate in - and thus bond to school through - the traditional activities. The Search Institute’s research shows that when students feel this connection or bond to their school, when they feel a sense of ownership of that school, their academic performance increases AND harmful behaviors are likely to decrease.
Direct expenses for school safety often include School Resource Officers, campus supervisors, and other security personnel, as well as cameras, mirrors, lighting, fencing, and the repair of damaged property. And then there are the indirect costs:
- time administrators spend disciplining students for bullying, fighting, weapons, etc.
- teaching time lost to disruptive behavior, which stresses teachers, erodes morale, and impedes learning
- ADA (Average Daily Attendance) funds lost due to students who stay home because they are afraid to come to school, or just plain dislike it intensely
- teaching time spent to help absent students “catch up” so they can learn material and be ready for tests.
And what if the unthinkable were to occur? What is the cost of:
- a bomb threat (lost time, buses, security personnel to clear the school, etc.)
- a shooting or stabbing
- a suicide…
By utilizing Ambassadors as change agents across the campus, many situations can be resolved student to student, reducing the need for adult intervention and saving dollars.
The Safe School Ambassadors program is based on the latest research and best practices. In the event of a tragedy, wouldn’t it make sense be able to show the world that you’ve incorporated such research and practices into your school safety plan? And if that tragedy produced legal action against your school, wouldn’t the courts also be likely to view your proactivity favorably?
The Safe School Ambassadors program provides another form of service for students who may need community service hours for graduation, or who may feel a desire to give something back. Again, the Search Institute’s research also shows that young people who serve experience an increase in academic performance, and are less likely to engage in harmful and risky behaviors.
As the effectiveness of student involvement becomes more widely understood, an increasing number of legislatures and other policy-makers are requiring that schools incorporate students in school safety planning and implementation using proven best practices. The Safe School Ambassadors program can help you stay ahead of these requirements.
1. California Healthy Kids Survey: Preliminary Findings. California Department of Education. August 2001.
2. Prothrow-Stith, D. & Quaday, S. (1996) Hidden Casualties: The relationship between violence and learning. Washington, DC: National Consortium for African American Children & National Health Education Consortium.
3. Bowen, N.K. & Bowen, G.L. (1999) Effects of crime and violence in neighborhoods and schools on the school behavior and performance of adolescents. J Adolescent Research, 14(3), 219-341.