Ambassadors Promote Safe Schools

Rayner Reinhardt, Staff Writer

The cliche example of high school is the harsh atmosphere that flows through the halls, the classrooms and even the cafeteria. We’ve all seen it before on TV,  in movies, and in books. Whether or not this is always true, the Safe Schools Ambassadors Program (SSA) takes initiative to prevent it and keep it out of our school.

SSA works across the nation in a variety of elementary, middle, and high schools. CHS has introduced the program this year as part of a Pilot Program with the possibility that the program will be used in the future at other high schools in Baltimore County.

This program is designed to prevent a harsh school climate. It is more than just another way to stop bullying.

“This program is designed to decrease peer mistreatment,” said school social worker Christina Puglisi, the program’s liaison.

SSA uses an “inside-out” approach to improve school climate through peer-leading students.

Often times, adults overlook the role of a student bystander in school conflicts. These bystanders know the details. They see what happens everyday, who the victim is, what’s causing it, etc.

SSA takes these students, the bystanders, and trains them on how to become Student Leaders who will ultimately prevent the bullying and violence.

Students for the program are selected through observation. Those chosen are the ones who are socially-influential, outspoken and stand up for their peers. They are the ones who can make a difference in the school climate and student habits because they come from diverse social groups.

Recruited students participate in a two-day training program advised by adults who serve as the program mentors. During this, the students learn the motivation and skills to resolve conflicts, as well as how to support excluded students and calm down incidents. These are the core principles of the SSA.

After the training ends and the action begins, ambassador meetings are held every few weeks. Meetings assess the progress that the ambassadors have made, strengthen their problem-solving skills, and keep the commitment to the program.

The program isn’t just designed to resolve student conflicts; it is also meant to take action before a conflict occurs. Ambassadors are taught how to defuse potential incidents in the moment.

“One of the main purposes, I would say, is to increase the student’s’ feeling of safety. The whole premise is that if students don’t feel safe, for any reason, then they don’t come to school,” Mrs. Puglisi said. “So we are hoping to see an attendance increase.”

SSA is proven to have quick, while also lasting, effects on a school climate. It reduces bullying and cyberbullying, increases student reports to administrators, and reduces suspensions and expulsions. Attendance also seems to boost because of the increased feelings of student safety.

“They’re not wearing a badge, nothing like that. Nobody knows just by looking at them that they are a Safe School Ambassador,” Mrs. Puglisi stated.