Establishing a positive school environment requires a school-wide commitment and a policy that supports it. With consistent rules and rewards for good behavior, intensive steps for groups of students exhibiting at-risk behavior, and individual services for students who continue to exhibit troubling behavior, culture change can happen in schools. But policy change isn’t easy—it must include implementation support, data collection, monitoring of adherence to the policy, and evaluation.
- Be Agile: Have a strategy, but be ready to change it. Policy change can leap forward based on current events or unanticipated opportunities. And just as often, policy advancement can stall because of the loss of a champion or the emergence of new priorities such as a budget crisis or local controversy.
- Find a Champion: Just like in curriculum implementation, having a champion (or champions) is critical to your success. They could be teachers, school administrators, parents, school nurses or even the superintendent of schools.
- Tell a Good Story: Policymakers respond to authentic voices and stories, whether they come from a youth, staff person or parent of a teen affected by violence. Parents and youth can be especially effective allies and champions, particularly when they are willing to tell their personal stories.
- Implementing Policy:The existence of a law or policy, whether at the school district, state or federal level is often not enough. Your program can have a role in putting implementation supports in place and making sure people in your community know about the policy.
- Collect Data: Accurate data is important to help advocates make the case for policy change. To build a strong case for your work, survey and test whenever you have the opportunity.