New initiative looks to cultivate relationship between students and SROs

New initiative looks to cultivate relationship between students and SROs
December 23
11:03 2020

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will soon launch an initiative with Triad Restorative Justice (TRJ), the Winston-Salem Foundation, and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) aimed at improving the relationship between students and law enforcement. 

The Board of Education officially passed a motion formally establishing the initiative, Lead Together, during the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15. The student-led initiative is designed to develop learning circles where groups of students, school SROs (School Resource Officers) and administrators will have the opportunity to learn from each other. 

Interim Superintendent Tricia McManus said talks about the initiative began about six months ago, “I’m very excited to say six months later after lots of meetings, lots of talking, lots of dialogue, we’re actually ready to kick it off,” she said. 

Triad Restorative Justice will provide training on the learning circle process for all participating students and adults. Adults will also receive training on developing a “restorative mindset.” Each month students will take turns facilitating meetings. According to McManus, training has already started and pilot programs are set to begin soon at Carver and Reagan High School. Funding for the initiative will be provided by the Winston-Salem Foundation. 

“Basically the whole goal of this is to improve relationships among students, school resource officers, and school administrators. It all boils down to our students have lived experiences and we need to hear their voice,” McManus continued. “We need to hear their voices, we need to be open to listening, and we need to be able to put ourselves in their shoes as we interact with them.”

Ellen Fox, who is a licensed educator and restorative practices trainer and specialist for TRJ, said Lead Together will give adults a chance to listen, but most importantly, give students a space to openly share their experiences. 

“It’s an opportunity to first listen to all of these different perspectives, create this mosaic, but ultimately empower youth with a skill set, a tool, and a space to share their experiences in a way that the traditional hierarchy of school and also the traditional setting of school doesn’t really afford,” Fox said. 

Lt. Robert Bethea said it has been a pleasure to work with the Lead Together team and it’s a great opportunity for the FCSO. He said the program will give a better understanding of what the duties of the SRO are. 

“The roundtable we’ve been having with the Lead Together team has been great, positive feedback from the SROs,” he said. “It will give a better understanding that the SRO isn’t there for only school safety; we’re also there for different situations that the kids go through every day.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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