CITY OF NEWPORT NEWS, VA
Mayor Joe S. Frank

THE NEWPORT NEWS A "CLASS ACTION" PROGRAM

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Class Action is a youth law related interactive program that focuses on promoting compliance through education. The program is structured through developed workbook material and presented by trained city law enforcement officers. The officers enter assigned schools at the middle school and high school level to present youth related scenarios where certain criminal acts have occurred. The scenarios have been carefully developed and tested to be clearly on the level of the target audience. The large majority of the presented material will focus on crimes of aggression which often lead to violent criminal offenses. These offenses include: abusive language, threats to kill or do bodily harm as well as assault and battery. Several of the developed lessons deal directly with school related violence.

The program is structured to be presented in tow fifty minute presentations with optional additional classes available. The Class Action Program differs from many law related education programs due to the primary structure of the program delivery where students are involved in an interactive problem solving approach with law enforcement officers through education. Students are involved during class presentations in identifying the specific law violation as well as the possible sanctions connected with each offense. The program concept and developed material clearly seeks to eliminate aggressive criminal behavior through identifying such offenses that would warrant sanctions under state law.

2. When was the program created and why?

During the Fall of 1995, the Newport News Police Department in partnership with the Newport News city school division set out to develop a youth law related program that would enhance the prevention efforts for young people in the city. The original Class Action Curriculum was developed through a representative of the police department working with a selected representative from education to organize a law related curriculum that would meet the needs of the target youth population. The developed material was presented for student review in the Winter of 1995 with full program implementation in the Spring of 1996. The Class Action Program came out of a concern from veteran law enforcement officers in Newport News in the critical area of youth related law education.

Officers assigned to the city’s middle and high schools began to experience a noticeable increase in aggressive behavior through student related abusive language, threats and assaults. While involved in student intervention for aggressive behavior, police officers discovered a lack of knowledge among the youth concerning possible sanctions under state law for their aggressive acts. While building student relationships, police officers began to see an established lack of knowledge expected for youth to make appropriate decisions in conflict situations. Many students began to express a lack of knowledge both in the area of what specific laws had been established to protect citizens against aggressive acts as well as the possible sanctions for the violations of such laws.

During the early development of the program specific focus groups were targeted on both the middle school and high school levels in an effort to establish the need, content and evaluation process of the program. The students involved in these interactive groups provided continued support for the further development of the Class Action Program which was fully implemented in the city of Newport News in the Spring of 1995.

3. How do you measure the programs effectiveness?

Since inception of the Class Action Project Program evaluation has remained a critical element of the process. Trained city police officers assigned to the school community provide the core of the evaluation process during the program delivery. Students are presented a pre-test during the first class action period to measure their current knowledge of specific youth related laws in the community including the school setting. Following this evaluation, students are provided both workbook materials and classroom instruction in the area of Virginia state law.

At the conclusion of the class action periods, students are presented a post-test to again measure their law related knowledge based on the presented material. In addition student as well as teachers are surveyed concerning the effectiveness of the presented program and the performance of the police officer instructor.

Program evaluations are carefully studied to improve both the curriculum and presentation of the program. Current student evaluations (available on request) have given added credibility to both the program structure and material. The program is currently being evaluated at the state level with a consistent measure of knowledge gin and program effectiveness. Evaluation at the state level has proven the need and effectiveness of the Class Action Program. Evaluations are available upon request.

4. How is the program financed?

The Class Action Program is fully funded through the office of the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. During the development of the program a start up grant was assigned to the city of Newport News for the overall development of the curriculum and evaluation components of the program.

Following the successful piloting of Class Action by the city of Newport News, the program model was adopted by the Governor’s office. Currently, program development, materials, and officer training is financed through the office of the Governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. Local funding is provided through the use of police department personnel and equipment.

5. How is the community involved in the program?

The community has actively been involved with the Class Action Program since its inception. The original planning involved a number of students from various schools within the community. These students were selected as a cross representation of not only their schools but the entire community. Citizen/parent groups were briefed during the development of the program where community concerns were shared in the area of juvenile related crime and violence. Following the development of the program portions of the Class Action Program was shared in civic and parent presentations as well as in-service programs for educators.

In response to citizen demands currently the Commonwealth of Virginia is developing a specific parent component of the program. The city of Newport News continues to be actively involved in this process with several city police officers serving on the planning and development team.

6. How has the community responded to the program?

The community demand for Class Action information has increased during the history of the program. The Newport News Police Department continues to field a number of requests from civic and parent groups on possible presentation of the Class Action Program. Students are encouraged to review Class Action material with parents. The city of Newport News currently uses the Class Action Program in various community settings outside of the school community. Class Action material is provided as an essential component of our truancy intervention program in addition the program has been featured in a number of youth related church activities within the city.

The Newport News’ Boys and Girls Club has provided an additional mechanism to involve community youth in the Class Action process. Future plans include providing additional Class Action presentations to community citizens groups throughout Newport News as well as providing Class Action material to the business community.

7. Contact person:

The Class Action Program is currently sponsored by the Office of the Honorable Governor James Gilmore, Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ms. Mary Shea Sutherland

Sgt. Elvia Williams

 

805 East Broad Street

Community Policing Operations Division

 

Richmond, VA 23219

Newport News Police Department

 

(804) 786-9072

Newport News, VA 23607

 

 

(757) 591-4985

 

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