Bringing together local law enforcement, the probation department, social services, court system, school board, principal, etc. to establish a school safety, truancy project is a daunting task. And getting people to show up is half the battle. Yeager has a way to ensure this happens. Three hundred-twenty school districts have tried and succeeded with his method.
The plan is simple. Invite all parties involved to a press conference on the new initiative in school safety. Then, write a news release mentioning all these specific sectors will be represented. "What you're using is peer pressure, or social norming to get them there, and guess what?" says Yeager. "It always works."
Training educators and law enforcement, not just detectives, but the patrol officers to profile students, is essential. This is the key to prediction and prevention, Yeager says. "You can tell if someone's carrying a weapon, where he's carrying it and what kind of weapon it is just by looking at him," he says. "Law enforcement generally reacts to a problem. That's why cops have to go through special training to become detectives. They need to learn to interrogate and investigate."
No school will be safe if there is an argument on who is in charge of making it so.
"For about every five schools, we see at least one bad relationship with law enforcement," Yeager notes. "Usually, though, the local police departments and school districts have a relatively good relationship because the district will see the police as its last resort to solving a problem."
The conflict, he says, comes mainly between the local police and its respective sheriff's department. The school doesn't understand the politics involved in law enforcement departments, and may obtain its SROs from the police rather than the sheriff's department, and who gets the money makes the tension tighter.
"We're seeing this over and over again," says Yeager. "This is where professionalism as law enforcement professionals has to take precedence." The truancy project, he says, is a plus for everyone involved. "Everybody gets equal credit. It's a win-win situation."
"The State of School Safety in American Schools" has been rewritten from its original technical version into a reader-friendly format, so the information can be easily accessed and discussed by anyone, not just the research professional. Yeager would like to see the information go nationwide to "clue in" the supportive communities such as law enforcement, educators and parents about what is really happening in schools today. Visit www.seraph.net to view the report.
"We better wake up in this country because we have a juvenile crime problem that's out of control."