This week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) announced its new Stay Safe & Aware Campaign, aimed at improving safety for students and staff before and after school. The district CEO also announced plans to expand the Safe Passage Project, which provides additional protection before and after school.
“We’re making a really big push for a safe spring in and around school,” CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said last month at a board meeting where some elements of the campaign were first introduced.
The campaign is a partnership between CMSD, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and the City of Cleveland. It has two main components: an increase in security camera coverage and police patrol presence, along with volunteer safety monitors and an awareness campaign highlighting the district’s anonymous alert system and hotline that students and community members can use to report safety concerns.
Getting the word out
GCRTA spokesperson Robert Fleig told Signal Cleveland the agency will be placing 500 promotional cards with the hotline information and the “Stay Safe & Aware” campaign branding in buses from the city’s east and west bus districts as well as on various Red, Blue, and Green Line trains. The promotional cards will stay up through June 5, the last day of school for students on the traditional school calendar.
Boosting student and community awareness of the CMSD anonymous tip hotline and online alert system is another element in the safety formula. CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora said the district purchased billboards and created flyers with the hotline’s phone number and the website URL.
These moves continue safety improvements the district started in January when teachers asked for full-time security officers at all school buildings and improved security camera coverage.
In February, the district told Signal Cleveland that they were integrating security cameras outside 16 schools into Cleveland Police’s camera monitoring system. Officials also said that the district wants to hire and train more full-time security officers to reduce the staffing shortage.
Expanded ‘Safe Passage Project’ brings neighbors and community members on to the streets
CMSD is also broadening another safety initiative called the Safe Passage Project. CMSD, the city, and MyCom work together to identify locations where greater security is needed.
The City of Cleveland and MyCom received a grant from the Cleveland Foundation to train and pay a team of Cleveland residents. These volunteers post outside schools, near bus stops, and along specific routes before and after school.
Kasey Morgan, chief strategy officer at MyCom, told Signal Cleveland that CMSD is now expanding the program to focus on areas around five district high schools: Collinwood, Garrett Morgan, John F. Kennedy, John Marshall and John Adams.
While the teams work with each school to determine their schedules, most people are in place from about an hour before school begins until 30 minutes after the late bell rings and then again from 30 minutes before school gets out until about an hour after. The teams also assist school staff in mediating arguments among students and help with any other needs identified by the principal.
“The presence of the Safe Passage team members is meant to be preventative, not reactionary,” Morgan said. “They are not there to replace security officers, but instead to serve as motivators to keep students moving to the school house and, once there, go to class and be engaged.”
A local take on a national model
Morgan said the Safe Passage Project is a national model that several cities and school districts are using in their violence prevention strategies and safety campaigns. Programs are in place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and many other major cities, she said.
Cleveland schools have used different versions of this program for the past 10 years, often in partnership with unpaid volunteers. Morgan said that being able to pay people allows MyCom to try new safety strategies, such as “walking school buses” and the Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School plan.
Next, MyCom wants to partner with trusted businesses to put stickers in their windows indicating they are a safe space, Morgan said.
“Young people oftentimes just need to know that there are people who are there who are not law enforcement or there to be punitive but who are here to be preventative and make sure students get to and from school safely,” she said.
Anyone can report urgent concerns over bullying, suspicious activity, or any other safety issue to the following phone hotline and website: (216-838-SAFE) and URL (www.clevelandmetroschools.org/SAFE)
Printable flyers and shareable social media graphics are available at CMSD’s landing page for the new safety campaign.