Greenwood, Ind. — The largest school system in Johnson County is no newcomer to school security. With their own police department, including school safety officers and K-9s, the Center Grove Community School System has made big investments in their students' safety over the years.
Now the district is taking a new approach and adding a layer to their system of checks to make sure students feel safe at school. They are tackling the issue of mental health head-on with a new pilot program that is currently being implemented in all of their schools across the district.
Mrs. Trammel's kindergarten class starts with a greeting. Not only does Mrs. Trammel say hello to each student by name as they walk, but the students also practice greeting one another. They work on eye contact, hand-shakes, and asking someone's name if they can't remember it.
It's just one small piece of a pilot program that first began at Pleasant Grove Elementary School last year. The program saw so much success that the district is now implementing this strategy in all schools and grade levels across the district.
It's called Trust Based Relational Intervention or TBRI. A parent first brought the idea to the school's principal and several teachers stepped up to do training sessions over their summer to learn this new approach.
Mrs. Trammel says they work on coping strategies like breathing, stretching and talking through their problems.
"We are incorporating those social-emotional issues by modeling, giving them redos and chances to learn," Trammel said.
TBRI is a proactive approach to discipline. It goes after the source of a child's frustration and helps them to talk through what is upsetting them before it becomes a bigger issue. Teachers work to form tight bonds with their students from the beginning so they feel comfortable opening up. They also work, from a young age, on using terminology to communicate how they feel. Empathy is also a big part of TBRI.
"And what we have learned through this training is a lot of people have experienced trauma in their life," Superintendent Rich Arkanoff said. "We were looking for ways we can be proactive. This is critical to student safety because its a proactive approach. You are taking care of issues before they happen."
Pleasant Grove Elementary saw a drastic drop in disciplinary referrals last year after implementing this program.
By encouraging students to use a "redo" when they make a mistake, teachers are allowing students to realize their potential. Instead of getting frustrated by not doing something correctly, they are able to work and try again until they get the answer correct. That concept is used to help give students confidence that if they keep trying they can learn from their mistakes.
"It's about really just taking that time to listen to the kids and for them to be heard," Trammell said. "I think that as we build upon [these skills] in each grade level, we are sending off our kids not just academically but also socially and emotionally prepared."
Along with TBRI, Center Grove Schools has been making big investments in building safety over the past few years. The district recently upgraded and installed all of the security cameras in the school buildings. They also created secured vestibules at entrances where visitors can get background checks before entering. The vestibules keep visitors out of school hallways and in a secure area until allowed in by school staff after checking in.
Center Grove also applied for a grant to help pay for their school resource officers, as the fund for those positions comes from the same area as teacher hires. The district tells RTV6 Center Grove was awarded that grant money to support their school safety initiatives.
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