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Check out STARS being highlighted in the Sunday Tennessean, June 19, 2011


Written by David Burton II, director of safety for the Wilson County Board of Education and a former Lebanon police officer.

During the past school year, 2010-2011, we enjoyed a reduction in crime in our schools in Wilson County.

I attribute this to several different factors. Our school system implements a number of programs, protocols and policies that promote a safe learning environment. One program in particular is that all of our high schools, junior highs and K-8 schools have school resource officers (SROs) from the Sheriff’s Department permanently assigned to them. The SRO program operates on a “Triad Plus Standard” program. The standard includes law enforcement duties, counseling, teaching and role modeling to promote and encourage positive behaviors. Healthy and positive working relationships with all law enforcement and emergency management agencies, including but not limited to Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Watertown police departments and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, help us to have this resource available to our students.

We are a participant in the SAVE Act, (Schools Against Violence in Education) as required by the state of Tennessee. This is an “all-hazard” approach to emergency planning and response. It enables us to plan for mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. We meet regularly with school administrators and department heads to discuss safety and current events that deal specifically with our school system. It is imperative for us to stay knowledgeable and up to date on state and local laws to make sure we are in compliance.

Peer mediation proves effective

Also, our school counselors work closely with the student body through peer mediation and conflict resolution. We offer life-skills training in grades 6-8 that helps students make beneficial choices. Peaceable Schools is a program designed for the overall environment of each school. It is by the Department of Education, which offers free training on how to keep a healthy learning environment. Each year, we follow “Martin Luther King III’s Kindness and Justice Challenge” in grades K-12. This program focuses on acts of kindness and paying it forward.

In addition, we are fortunate to offer STARS, (Students Taking a Right Stand), dedicated to helping students make healthy lifestyle choices and refrain from the use of alcohol, drugs and violence. We have STARS counselors in schools throughout the county. Executive Director Roger Dinwiddie and Deputy Director Tim Difenderfer continue to work proactively in our school system and have assisted us many times in crises and recovery.

Our overall safety success also can be contributed to cooperative efforts and working relationships, beginning with our director of schools, Mike Davis, and extending to every classroom teacher. Our director places a strong emphasis on safety, because a student’s education is what is most important to us, and children learn better if they feel safe at school.

As far as our future is concerned, we are piloting two new programs this fall to help promote a positive learning environment for students: Olweus, a bullying-prevention program administered on the national and local levels, and School Climate, administered through the Department of Education’s Safe and Supportive Schools. Executive Director Mike Harriman, Dr. Nicole Cobb and Dr. James Witty have designed and implemented this program to improve the school climate, which we believe will improve test scores, attendance and graduation rates. We further believe that these efforts will enable us to maintain a safe school environment.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.