I-Team: How local school districts are working to combat violence at school
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - According to the Michigan Center for Education Performance and Information, out of the 903 school districts in Michigan, three in southwest Michigan ranked in the top 25 of having the most victims of violence. Last year, Kalamazoo Public Schools reported 9 student victims while Hastings and Portage also came in the top 25 with 7 victims.
“These are pretty reactionary occurrences, a lot of times those are fires I can't get to, to put out,” says Nathan Slavin, school resource officer for Portage Public Schools.
That’s why Slavin tries to stay ahead of the curve. He’s contantly working to squash altercations before they turn into a crime.
“What seems to help is when I have through the silent observers, the fast fifty program --- where in a nutshell it's an informant or a snitch program where kids will come to me, completely anonymously, and they will tell me about things that are about to kick off, or a crime that's going on in the school,” says Slavin.
At Kalamazoo Public Schools, new chief safety officer Donald Webster utilizes the same programs. But he also says KPS is always improving their policies and infrastructure to get that number from nine to zero.
“We have security at all of our buildings,” says Webster. “We have increased the number of security cameras in our buildings and we work diligently to be proactive.”
Proactive is a word all school officials we interviewed used. Dr. Robin Buchler in Mattawan says it’s vital to keep violence at a minimum.
“What we’re trying to do here is be proactive in that we start very young with our students on anti-bullying things or responsibility of reporting if you hear anything or see anything,” says Buchler.
Last year, Mattawan reported zero victims of violence.
“We’ve also put in Okay2Say so students at any time can report what they heard or what they think is going to happen and we react to that immediately when we’ve heard it,” says Buchler.
The Portage school district is also using social media to get students to speak up without the fear of retaliation---it seems to be working.
“If I can use those channels to get ahead of it I can usually they will come to me and say "hey I saw this on social media" this is about to go down,” says Slavin.
“It has decreased significantly. I think our students feel really safe and everyone knows they can report it,” says Buchler.