This summer I was honored to serve as an adjunct instructor for Texas State University. Working directly through the Texas School Safety Center School-Based Law Enforcement Summits, we were able to bring TEEN TRUTH’s message to over 400 officers across Texas. As I worked to inspire the officers through our own unique brand of student voice and youth empowerment, I was able to see that some of them were struggling to understand exactly what their place was on campus.
This was most evident when I was at lunch with a group of officers in Ft. Worth. They were voicing concern and confusion around the facts that they don’t work for the school districts they serve (they work for the police department) and that they are not school administrators or teachers, yet they are on campus all the time. I realized straddling the line between police officer, administrator, and teacher was a tough balancing act, so I decided to focus on what it is like to be a student today and to see what the officers had to say about the matter.
We focused on the pressures that students are dealing with right now. We looked at how those pressures can lead students to bad decisions. And we delved into the idea that connected students (students who are engaged in their school’s activities) often go on to have positive school based outcomes and better decision-making processes. Using the RISING UP: Coaching Program as an example, I was able to illustrate how students are changed through relationships, and I urged the officers to realize just how powerful their relationships can be with students.
Some of the officers were surprised to hear that the students perceived them as mentors, but many others had already taken those steps in their life and in their school’s culture. They talked during our sessions about students that they had personally helped through hard times and initiatives that they had been involved in to get students connected on campus. One officer was even instrumental in starting a fund that buys students bikes and school supplies. Another officer was involved in a campaign to help raise over $50,000 for cancer related costs!
So just as I challenged the officers to think about how they were going to collaborate with their school this upcoming school year, I challenge you to think about how you might be able to collaborate with your school-based law enforcement teams? Are you utilizing them to the best of their abilities? Are you helping them form key relationships that will drive school culture and build resilient students?
During my work with Texas State, I learned that empowering student voice is not only the heartbeat of TEEN TRUTH’s movement, but can also be the heartbeat of your school-based law enforcement efforts.
Thanks for your continued support,
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH