The school safety patrol — it’s an age-old tradition and rite of passage for thousands of children across America each year. They proudly strap on their neon yellow and orange safety patrol belts and get a little taste of what it’s like to be an authority figure, in charge of others’ well-being.
For some children, this could be the beginning of a career in law enforcement. For others, (shh!) it’s a way to get out of class early.
No matter their motives in joining, all students have the opportunity to be positively impacted by their involvement in their school safety patrol program. AAA, which started the school safety patrol program in 1920, cites safety awareness, leadership, teamwork, pride, citizenship, and respect for law enforcement as some of the benefits experienced by students.
So how can school administrators structure their school safety patrol programs so that students get the most character-building benefits?
Provide the right training
Think back to a time you were thrown into a job or task and felt completely unprepared for it. (Some educators out there, particularly new college grads, may be nodding their heads — trial by fire, anyone?) For some tasks, yes, learning on the job is inevitable, but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) always have to be that way — particularly when it comes to training students to be school safety patrols.
The best way to set your student patrols up for success is to create a structured training program for them. Make it a combination of required reading, classroom instruction, and real-world training for the best results.
Start with a safety patrol manual that outlines the rules and procedures of the program. Where are their posts, and when should they report to them? What should they do if a student repeatedly disobeys their orders? How does the carpool tag system work? All this and more should be covered. After going over the manual with your safety patrols, you may even want to test them on the material. Set a passing standard that you expect your patrols to meet in order to move on to the next stage of training.
Before donning their official safety belt and badge, your patrols should put their learning into practice — with a mentor by their side, of course. In some communities, law enforcement officials are even involved in training student patrols. This can be a great way to inspire your students in their task, but if law enforcement mentors are not an option for your safety patrol program, a teacher/sponsor or experienced student patrol is an acceptable substitute.
Hold your patrols accountable
Ever read the book or seen the movie version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Best friends Greg Heffley and Rowley Jefferson join their school safety patrol for some pretty “noble” reasons: protection from bullies, missing 20 minutes of pre-algebra, and free hot cocoa.
One of the boys’ tasks is to walk the preschoolers to their daycare each afternoon. When Greg shirks this duty, however, and terrorizes the kids (making them jump in a hole in the movie and chasing them with an earthworm in the book), he lets Rowley take the fall for him, who is suspended from the program. The truth eventually comes to light, though, and Rowley is reinstated and promoted to team captain, while Greg is asked to turn in his patrol belt and badge.
We certainly hope you won’t have to discipline your patrols for making kids jump in holes or chasing them with worms — but you should have a basic system in place for keeping your patrols accountable when they do slip up. AAA advises using a system of demerits and merits, where patrols are not only disciplined for things like leaving their post without permission, being tardy, and breaking safety rules but also awarded for going above and beyond, such as filling in for a patrol who is sick or doing a safety presentation for a younger class of students.
Make it fun!
Don’t forget that at the end of your day, your safety patrols are kids who like to laugh and have fun. Be sure to work in plenty of opportunities for them to have a good time, especially as a team. A pizza party during lunch, team-building games, or even a few new comic strips displayed in the safety patrol room each week are some ways to create a light-hearted atmosphere and show your patrols that you appreciate them.
Do you have a safety patrol program at your school? Share your success secrets with us here in a comment or on social media @prosigndesignco! Be sure to use #ProsignSafetyChat in your social post to be part of the conversation.