Personal safety concerns from students, parents, and school staff may be significant depending on the community. Program coordinators and participants should be aware of possible threats to students traveling to and from school or being physically active in their communities. Program coordinators should also be proactive in acknowledging potential perceived safety concerns from parents in the community.
Bullying and Harassment
Safe Routes to School programs have a significant role to play in addressing bullying and harassment. We know that in our increasingly isolated communities, kids may feel vulnerable to attack as they walk down the street. Promoting more opportunities for parents to be integrated in Safe Routes to School activities, such as a Walking School Bus route leader, will include adult figures who can respond to potential bullying actions. Training for Safe Routes to School volunteers should include training on how to address bullying and harassment in a sensitive and productive manner.
Threat of Deportation
In our current political climate, students who are immigrants, or whose parents are immigrants, may have more on their mind than just doing well in school. Schools should consider:
Disseminating information about students and families’ rights. Distribute “know your rights” materials to students and families. See the CELA Toolkit for supporting undocumented students and their families
San Mateo County has a 24-hour rapid response hotline to expand the community’s capacity to monitor and document ICE operations in real time
Incorporating student-centered values in SRTS programming. SRTS activities bring families together, and school staff should emphasize that the school exists to support students and assure families that no child’s education will be compromised because of their family’s country of origin
Crime and Violence
In some neighborhoods, perception of nearby crime or gang activity may prevent parents and caregivers from feeling comfortable letting their children walk or bike to school. Other communities have developed best practices in creating innovative and engaging solutions:
Schools can identify "Corner Captains" in neighborhoods and along established routes to school. A corner captain is a parent, teacher, or other volunteer who is stationed outside at designated locations during morning arrival and afternoon dismissal. They can improve personal security by serving as "eyes on the street.” Schools across the country are using this model to partner with local commmunity groups to implement Safe Passage Programs, such as the program in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.
Check out the Inclusion & Equity in School Commute Programs Guidebook for more information on overcoming language, cultural, and physical barriers to participation in Safe Routes to School programs.