Collaboration Aligns School Safety Efforts

Community partners collaborate to improve school safety.On January 23rd, the Coalition for Safe Schools and Communities held its fourth annual leadership breakfast at the San Mateo County Office of Education to spotlight innovative work and strengthen cross agency partnerships focused on school and community safety. The morning culminated with regional partners engaging in conversations about local safety priorities and committing to next steps.

Since the launch of the Coalition in 2013, leaders in education, law enforcement, fire, public safety, local government, social services, and nonprofits have collaborated to address the safety needs of youth in San Mateo County and to develop countywide protocols to encourage student safety and well-being. The protocols include The Big Five, the countywide emergency response plan; a Suicide Prevention Toolkit; and a guidance document for educators to support students who may be at risk of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking. But the key ingredient in the Coalition’s success is the collaboration it fosters across agencies.

“It truly is about relationships,” said the County Office’s Associate Superintendent of Student Services Jeneé Littrell. “The progress we share could not happen without the continued commitment of front line staff and agency leaders within our districts and across our partner agencies. The quality of these relationships is remarkable and provides the foundation for this forward-thinking and progressive work.”

One tangible example is the regional Student Threat Assessment Team, which is comprised of nine agencies that meet together regularly to support school-based teams in responding quickly and appropriately to youth who may pose a serious threat. By aligning the various systems through the Student Threat Assessment process, students and families can receive needed support and resources in a timely manner while potential acts of violence are prevented.

“These partnerships help us intervene quickly and provide services to students right away,” explained San Mateo County Deputy Counsel Claire Cunningham. “San Mateo County is leading the way in partnering across agencies instead of staying in our silos, and all to the betterment of our students.”

Attendees at the recent breakfast included leaders from police, fire, county and city government, county agencies, and school districts. Participants had the opportunity to discuss topics such as increasing communication between local partners, conducting live drills during teacher professional development sessions, and creating city-wide safety coalitions to share resources.

“This work is about being a conduit and connecting the dots,” shared Jefferson Elementary School District Board Trustee Manufou Liaiga-Anoa’i. “It is validating to see gaps being filled through the Coalition’s work, and to see these commitments refreshed and renewed. It is important that everyone is at the table.”

As the Coalition for Safe Schools and Communities moves into its sixth year of implementation, the partners are laser-focused on deepening implementation of its protocols, educating and engaging parents, and growing opportunities for youth voice and leadership. County Superintendent Nancy Magee cites safe and supportive schools as a top priority in her leadership agenda. “A safe and supportive school is fundamental to learning,” Magee said. “In order to ensure every child’s success, we must provide safety, build community trust, and model and support inclusivity and respect.”

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