CITY OF OAK RIDGE, TN
Mayor Walker K. Brown

CURBING SCHOOL VIOLENCE IN OAK RIDGE

Although the crime rate is below average in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, crimes are still committed here quite regularly. Too often they involve the youth of this city of 28,000 residents. Statistics from recent years clearly show a growing number of juveniles are perpetrating these crimes as well as being victimized by them. Likewise, the number of violent crimes being committed by and against our children is increasing, both in the community and in the schools.

Concern for these disturbing trends led to the implementation of a School Resource Officers program in the Oak Ridge Police Department which dedicates three full-time officers to the Oak Ridge Schools. These officers serve as a direct law enforcement resource to the schools and, more importantly, an educator and advisor to the students. The goal in this program is to establish within the student a basic understanding of law and order and to instill a genuine respect for laws and law enforcers. The desired result would be a decrease in the crime rate in Oak Ridge, specifically the juvenile crime rate.

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The School Resource Officers (SRO) program currently employs three full-time certified police officers who are assigned to work within the seven schools of the city school system and at one private school. These officers report to a staff sergeant who oversees the program. The city school system includes one high school of approximately 1600 students where one officer is assigned, and two middle schools each with two "feeder" elementary schools. The two remaining officers are each assigned to a middle school and their feeder schools. One of the middle school officers is also assigned to the private K-8 school.

Each of the middle school officers instruct the D.A.R.E. program to the fifth-graders at their respective schools, and, beginning this year, will instruct Project ALERT to the sixth and seventh graders. These are drug and violence prevention programs which have proven to be effective nationally. Another new addition to the middle school education program this year is a course entitled "Community Law and Safety." This is a comprehensive nine-week course that is being taught to all eighth graders at one of the middle schools by the assigned SRO. It includes lessons on rights and responsibilities, understanding the justice system, effects of crime and violence in the community, and conflict resolution.

In addition the middle school education programs, the SROs present drug and violence prevention lessons to K-4 students throughout the school year. The officer assigned to the high school works closely with the staff and faculty to incorporate drug and violence prevention education into as many classes as is feasible.

All School Resource Officers have offices at their respective schools which easily accommodate counseling sessions with students, parents and staff who seek their help. They also spend time with the students in non-threatening, relaxed conditions outside their office and classrooms (i.e. on the playgrounds, in the cafeterias, etc.) which promotes a more personal and unofficial rapport with the students. But, their uniformed presence is a visual reminder that a law enforcer is immediately accessible if the need arises. This, to some, serves as a deterrent to criminal or violent behavior. To others, it represents protection.

The summer months for the SROs are spent presenting a program called "Safety City." This is a 20-hour safety "camp" for uprising kindergartners and first graders which instructs them in 20 different areas of safety ranging from pedestrian safety to safety from sexual abuse. This program serves as a two-fold introduction for the 120 students who participate each summer in that they learn safety practices as well as learning that police officers are their helpers and friends.

The Safety City program serves as a catapult for the following years of personal interaction the students have with the police officers in their schools. With repeated non-confrontational interaction and instruction these students receive from the SROs, it is expected that they will grow to better understand and respect the laws and the law enforcers. Thus, they will commit fewer crimes and acts of violence. They will also better understand and recognize danger and victimization and be more likely to protect themselves and report these things to appropriate authorities.

2. When was the program created and why?

The Safety City program was first implemented in the summer of 1992 when the police department and the local YWCA joined in a partnership to educate the children of Oak Ridge about safety. In 1993 the D.A.R.E. program was first taught in a fifth grade class in Oak Ridge. That same year, an eighth grade student was caught with a gun in a classroom. The concern for student safety suddenly became a priority.

In 1994 an additional officer was certified to teach D.A.R.E. and three more classes received the program. After two very successful runs with Safety City, an overwhelming response to D.A.R.E., and a growing concern about real and potential violence in the schools, the police department approached the city schools with a plan to bring this two-fold education into all of the schools and classrooms, adding the feature of full-time immediate accessible law enforcement on the campuses. After considering the growing lack of respect of students toward school authority and the growing concern for student, the schools accepted the police departmentís offer and provided accommodations.

In 1994 the original two SROs received training from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and immediately began instruction, counseling and law enforcement within the schools. The program was a tremendous success, and the demands on the officers grew beyond what their schedule could handle. In 1998 an additional officer was assigned to the schools, bringing the total to three.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

A formal program assessment procedure is not currently in place. Rather, the effectiveness of the SRO program is informally measured through the monitoring of the city juvenile crime rate and school violent and criminal incident rates. Both monitored rates indicate no significant increase in violent incidents involving youth since the implementation of the SRO program.

The effectiveness of the SRO program is measured unofficially through the spontaneous, unsolicited responses received by the police department from school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Many of those who have made unofficial comments about the SRO program have noted that it seems to be making a positive impact in the schools that is carrying over into the community as well. Students and staff report feeling safer in school, and parents appreciate the added security and information their children are receiving from the officers.

4. How is the program financed?

Expenses for the SRO program include salary and benefits for three officers, training, vehicles, communication equipment, public educational materials, and miscellaneous office supplies and equipment. Financing for the SRO program is funded entirely by city revenues and falls under the management of the police department.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

The community is involved in the SRO program primarily through business support of the D.A.R.E. program. Local businesses donate their services and products to promote D.A.R.E. and drug prevention. For example, a popular local pizza restaurant sponsors pizza parties for graduating D.A.R.E. classes, and a local store from a large nationally recognized chain of department stores donated money to purchase D.A.R.E. materials used in that program. Other local businesses contribute their time and services to various D.A.R.E. events.

The Safety City program is jointly presented by the police department and the YWCA which solicits community business support to fund that program in exchange for significant public recognition. Safety City also involves volunteer help from approximately 20 area teens who each donate 20 - 120 hours of their time. The community response to the SRO program has been very supportive. Area businesses are eager to provide materials and funding if and when needed.

6. Contact person:

David Beams, Chief of Police;

Officer Gina Grubb, School Resource Officer

Oak Ridge Police Department

P.O. Box 1

Oak Ridge, TN 37831-0001

e-mail: ggrubb@mai.oak-lea.anderson.k12.tn.us

Phone: (423) 482-4887

Fax: (423) 482-8557

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