Every year at Oklahoma’s Moore High School, students sponsor a daylong prep rally.
No, that’s not a typo. That’s how Hether Little, Senior Class Principal, describes the annual School Safety Fair, now held under the umbrella of the Safe and Sound Youth Council initiative.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Michele Gay, co-founder of Safe and Sound (https://www.safeandsoundschools.org/) spoke at Moore’s technology center, and the group of principals, counselors and students who attended the presentation came away inspired by her story. Moore formed a Safe School Committee, the student members came up with the idea for the School Safety Fair, and the program’s successful launch in turn helped inspire Safe and Sound to develop its Youth Council Initiative (see related article, “Students Get Involved in Making Schools “Safe and Sound”)
“The students pretty much did it all,” Little says of the annual event. “They are the ones that contacted the different agencies and got them set up to attend. They picked the date and the physical locations, made sure that projectors and laptops were available, set up the chairs. It’s very much student-led.”
The School Safety Fair starts off with a keynote speaker; speakers in the event’s early years have included Gay, a local psychiatrist and an active shooter trainer. For the remainder of the school day, students break into smaller groups and rotate through presentations by the Oklahoma City and Moore police departments, Oklahoma Homeland Security, emergency management and public health, a local meteorologist and more.
“It’s been inspiring for us to do this and see the positive reaction from students, faculty and staff. It really gets them thinking,” Little says. “All of the speakers volunteer their time.”
The original group of students not only looked at the different components of school safety and reached out to local agencies, they also started mentoring underclassmen so that as group leaders graduate, others are ready to step in and keep the School Safety Fair going.
“We talk about school safety being everybody’s responsibility, and when it comes to the school’s day-to-day population, administrators and teachers are in the minority. We can’t see everything and we must rely on students to tell us about what’s going on,” Little says. “Our students are great about telling us what’s happening on social media and other things that look ‘off.’ We now hear about more bullying incidents and students who are trying to self-harm.
“Changing the culture is everybody’s responsibility, and awareness of that has really increased since we started the School Safety Fair. Students feel much more comfortable and have increased their understanding that they have ownership of the safety of the school and the safety of the students,” she adds. “They’re much more comfortable coming to the staff, which includes two Moore police officers assigned to work onsite. They’re here every day working with the kids and are very involved with the student populations, and we have students who give them tips all the time.”
Although none of the other schools in Moore’s area have created a similar full-blown School Safety Fair, several have reached out to learn more and have adapted the ideas into similar, smaller programs.
“It’s a great idea that the kids have jumped on and loved. We’re happy to share information on how we did it, because the more schools that do something like this, the more it will benefit school climate and culture overall,” Little says.
For more information about the Moore School Safety Fair, contact Hether Little at (405) 735-4775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.