Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 9

and Disaster Preparedness .
As a district , Sweetwater engaged in conversations about how we could ensure a safe , inclusive and collaborative culture , as our mission statement reflects . This includes looking at school safety from the perspective that as a district there is a need to create welcoming communities , build relationships , and include the voice of the community in all of our efforts .
Starting with our Local Control and Accountability Plan , Sweetwater built into the second of its four goals that we would “ Create a safe and healthy learning environment for each student …” From our perspective , school safety starts here . It then becomes an overarching goal of aligning mental health services , school site supports , district supports and overall physical campus safety .
Finally , the critical piece that threads throughout all of these efforts are the partnerships and collaborations that we ’ ve built and the strides we ’ ve made in communicating our work . These efforts have materialized themselves into a number of community safety forums that have been hosted across the district this year .
Mental Health Services
Building a positive school climate and culture means that the specific needs of each student are being addressed . This includes addressing the mental health needs of students and their families . As a district , we currently employ 13 therapists ( with six of them bilingual in English and Spanish ) including a district-level Program Manager who oversees the work . These therapists offer a number of services including individual counseling , group and family sessions , case management , crisis intervention and other collateral services . In areas where additional support is needed , we offer referrals to a number of partner agencies that we work with in our service areas .
In addition to the work of the therapists , we have created school site Student Success Teams where regular meetings are held by multidisciplinary team members to address individual student situations and provide more in-depth support . This involves a constant training module for school counselors and other administrators as well .
Building a positive school climate and culture means that the specific needs of each student are being addressed .
Finally , in the area of mental health , the Sweetwater District has formed numerous partnership and collaborations with agencies that offer family support services , including the County of San Diego and their Health and Human Services agency . This is critical in being able to provide the needed support and follow up with students .
Student Support Services
With a focus on putting students first we have taken a hard look at what we do in the areas of student support services . This includes several aspects that include student transfers , discipline and staff professional development .
Oftentimes the philosophy of a district is to transfer problematic students to other schools within the district or even out of the district . Although there are instances where removal is the most appropriate course of action , Sweetwater has taken a step back and begun looking at ways that we can manage challenging situations and provide support to students before moving them from their current school environment .
Restorative practices and other forms of alternative discipline are quickly becoming an option for students as disciplinary issues arise . This includes specific programs such as a newly developed Teen Court . In exchange for acknowledging guilt of an offense , the student agrees to be tried by their peers . The student-led effort hears the case and asks the offending student a variety of questions about the incident , as well as about themselves . The only adult in the process is a volunteer judge who presides over the court . Ultimately , the jury of students makes a carefully informed decision that they feel is fair and creates a learning opportunity for the offending student .
Planning
Sweetwater ’ s comprehensive planning and preparedness initiatives are arranged in a 4x5 framework . This matrix is arranged with five fundamental columns for infrastructure , climate , procedures , partnerships and community . These five columns are distributed along a vertical axis of preventionmitigation , preparation , response and recovery .
Key questions that drive all of our training sessions are :
• How can we prevent and / or mitigate violence ?
• How can we prepare for and respond to a spectrum of risks — from common / lowerrisk to infrequent / high-risk ?
• How can we best respond — from the individual level to the organizational level ?
Shared protocol and partnership initiatives can yield some of the greatest return on investment for a district , so Sweetwater has placed enormous emphasis here . The district has implemented a high quality district standardized Comprehensive School Safety Plan with revision , support and accountability process and new document tracking
September | October 2018 9
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