Safe school program works

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 3, 2007

When the Dallas County Juvenile Court launched a Safe School Challenge in October 2005, its purpose was two-fold:

To call attention to the increase in violence among teens in Dallas County, and

To give students in area public schools something to work toward.

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The schools compete by not having students involved in violent offenses. Offenses committed at school, and outside of school, can knock a school out of the competition.

It appears to be working.

The numbers of violent offenses are down about 25 percent, officials said.

The winning school will be crowed in a May 11 awards ceremony with a trophy, a $500 grant for the school, a computer, Ipods for the students, and a party at the end of the year.

At the time the program was launched, Dallas County ranked 67th out of Alabama’s 67 counties, according to Judge Bob Armstrong, who said he was seeing young people coming before his bench “at an alarming rate.”

The Challenge is one-of-a-kind, designed by those who work with juvenile cases and in the juvenile justice system.

It is touted as a positive way to help young people re-think their actions.

School principals report they are seeing students squash misunderstandings before they escalate into fights.

There are other programs, as well, such as Teen Court, that have helped stem juvenile offenses.

These innovative, positive programs show that there are opportunities to reduce juvenile crime in Dallas County.

Hats off to public officials who look for ways to do just that.