287 Student Safety Coach Model

In 2017, District 287 replaced School Resource Officers with Student Safety Coaches (SSCs) and built a school safety model focused on relationships, de-escalation, and healing-centered approaches.

A Strategic Priority: The SSC model is part of the District’s move to become a racially conscious, trauma-sensitive and healing-centered school district. Learn more about our Strategic Priorities of racial equity, student outcomes, trauma-sensitive and healing-centered practices, evidence-based instruction, and employee well-being.

The Student Safety Coach Model Approach:

  • Trauma-sensitive and healing centered behavior practices
  • De-criminalize student mental health
  • Reduce racial trauma for Students of Color
  • Build trusting relationships with students
  • Proactively address issues and behavior
  • Restorative practices

Suggested Reading

Wilder Research Report and Data

Wilder Research: Since the 2014-15 school year, Wilder Research has been working with ISD 287 to evaluate various programs.  Wilder Research conducted a literature review on school resource officers, met with SSC leadership to build a logic model, and surveyed ISD staff on perceptions of the SSC program.

ISD 287's Student Safety Coaches: Summary of Literature and Staff Survey School Year 2019-2020 (Wilder Research, June 2020)

Key Data Points (Staff Perceptions)

  • Effective at de-escalating situations - 73% agree, 16% I don't know
  • Help students cool down when they are in crisis - 74% agree, 17% I don't know
  • Build trusting relationships with students - 78% agree, 16% I don't know

"SSCs build relationships with students, which helps tremendously when trying to de-escalate them during and after a crisis. SSCs give students a designated go-to person if they are struggling in class or with a situation outside of school. SSCs help students process their feeling and communicate them effectively in more situations than not. SSC's help students practice SEL (social-emotional learning) skills on a daily basis." - 287 Educator

Program Data (SY17-18 through SY19-20, note: spring 2020 data not included due to distance learning)

  • Stronger relationships: Almost 30% of student interactions with SSCs were positive student outcomes
  • Incidents with police involvement decreased by over half over the first two years: Incidents shifted from needing police involvement to being addressed through de-escalation and/or mental health support. On average, about 2% of SSC interactions with students resulted in needing police response (37 police responses in 17-18, 12 police responses in 18-19, and 15 police responses in fall 19)
  • Significantly Fewer Arrests: In the pilot year (2016-2017), one school resolved 95% of incidents without police intervention. Arrests dropped from 65 to 12 in that school in the first year along. Now, the average number of student arrests across the entire district is five.
  • Use of Physical Holds: On average, physical holds were only needed in about 18% of situations.

Job Description and Training

Student Safety Coaches are trained in:

  • Trauma
  • Mental health
  • First aid
  • De-escalation tactics
  • Crisis intervention
  • Crime prevention
  • School safety and A.L.I.C.E.
  • Defensive tactics

Student Safety Coach Job Description: The Student Safety Coach position is accountable for maintaining a positive school environment by providing building security, positive behavior and social-emotional interventions, crisis prevention and intervention, and emergency support services to staff, students, and visitors.

  • Education and Experience Requirements
  • Licensure Requirements
  • Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
  • Essential Functions
  • Working Conditions
  • Mental Requirements and Stress of the Position
Costs and Staffing Model

District 287 employs 10 Student Safety Coaches (SSCs) and two Student and Staff Safety Managers. Each school has two SSCs, and then two floats respond to incidents as needed.

While the two safety managers' responsibilities go beyond the partnership with the SSCs, they are included in the below cost model.

Cost: The cost of the SSC model is exclusively staff salary and benefits. The FY19-20 cost was about $900,000. In some cases, the SSCs were already existing staff in the district, which resulted in shifts in resources, not necessarily added overall staffing costs. The hourly rate range for an SSC position is $24.53 - $34.58.

Student Safety Coaches vs. School Resource Officers: The role of an SSC is very different than the role of a police officer in schools. Police intervene in student incidents only 2% of the time, just a fraction of the involvement of SSCs with students. As such, the value SSCs bring to the school community goes far beyond the role of police officers, which was primarily focused on the criminalization of student behaviors. 

Why are Staff Injuries on the Rise Despite the New Safety Model?

Some people have asked why staff injuries continue to go up even with the shift to Student Safety Coaches.  Explicitly tieing staff injuries to the SSC model is misleading without the greater context of why staff injuries are so high in a Federal Setting IV school district.

Student behavior can be misunderstood. First, we need our community members to understand that student behavior is a result of a student's disability and/or childhood trauma.

Students do not intentionally harm staff, rather our students' behaviors are a result of their Special Education disability, such as severe Autism, and/or traumatic experiences such as victims or witnesses of abuse, violence, racial harm, police brutality, and other forms of trauma. There is often no forewarning in student behavior, and an injury can occur before the Student Safety Coach is on the scene. School Resources Officers likely never would have intervened in any of these types of behavior incidents.

Our focus on decreasing staff injuries is focused on getting the right treatment and mental health support for students and helping our staff gain the skills and knowledge they need to support our unique population of students.

The reasons why staff injuries are so high is complex.

  • District 287 serves the top 1% of the highest-needs students in the West Metro.
  • The most significant correlation we see is that as the needs of students increase, so do staff injuries.
  • Over the past decade, there have been waves of closures of mental health providers and residential treatment centers that serve youth.
  • As such, schools have become the responsible entity to serve the most significant mental health needs of students.
  • In fact, hospitals and residential treatment can choose not to serve students because of aggression/dangerous behaviors. Schools are legally obligated, and rightfully so, to serve students with Special Education protections.

What are we doing about it?

  • Legislative Advocacy: Public schools cannot sustain the current reality. Suggested Reading: Star Tribune Opinion Exchange - Legislators have responsibility to keep schools safe
  • Partnership with Dr. Bruce Perry's ChildTrauma Academy
  • Therapeutic Teaching Classrooms and partnership with the Wilder Foundation
  • Student Safety Coaches
  • Social-Emotional Learning
  • Positive Behavior Supports
  • Restorative Justice
  • Training for staff in trauma, crisis, de-escalation, etc.
  • Children's Mental Health Microcredential
  • Supports after Critical Incidents
  • Embedded Therapists in Several Programs
  • Collaborative Problem Solving
  • District Mobile Response Team

Our transition to Student Safety Coaches is one piece of a vast puzzle to support our students.

Advice and Key Learnings for Considering a Similar Model

Start with Students: The best place to start when considering a new school safety model is by understanding the needs of your students. District 287 serves a population of students with severe mental health needs and special education disabilities, which is why decriminalizing our students'  behavior was a driving factor in our decision. Instead of police control, students needed trauma-sensitive and healing-centered behavior support. Therapeutic approaches, rather than policing approaches, was what our students needed. Although we do need to call 911 on occasion, we don't believe police have a permanent place in District 287 schools.

Adapting to a school safety model like this, in arguably some of the toughest schools in Minnesota,  shows that it can be done successfully while also resulting in better outcomes for students.

Bold Vision and Leadership: A school district considering a model like ours will benefit from a bold vision and committed leadership to the change. A model like this requires change management. Not only are there significant structural and staffing changes, but shifts in employees' mindsets about student behavior.

Culture Shift: Practices, policies, and mindsets have to move away from a "consequences and punishment" mentality and towards responding with trauma-sensitive and healing-center practices. Getting employees trained in trauma-sensitive and healing-centered practices and working towards an adaptive mindset about student behavior is essential.

Who gets Hired Matters: Getting the right people in the right places is critical to the success of a new school safety model. It's important to ask candidates about their beliefs about students, race, behavior and childhood trauma. Some of the common characteristics/beliefs of people who have been successful in our SSC positions:

  • Students are good kids and their behaviors do not define them. Students get a "clean slate" every day.
  • Have a calling for working with young people and are intrinsically motivated to support them.
  • Have strong self-regulation skills, which in turn help others (students and staff) regulate their emotions in intense situations.
  • Have a keen ability to listen deeply to students and can understand, relate, and/or empathize with students' emotions and experiences.
  • Are on a journey to become anti-racist and are reflective about race, racial consciousness, and racial bias.
News Stories
Photo Credit: David Joles - Star Tribune

K12 Dive: Study correlates SROs with increased risk of school firearm discharges, disciplines, arrests(Naaz Moden, Oct 19, 2021)

Star Tribune: Minnesota school district sees benefit to life after cops in schools (Anthony Lonetree, July 9, 2020)

74 Million: Police-Free Schools? This Suburban Minneapolis District Expelled Its Cops Years Ago (Mark Keierleber, July 8, 2020)

Minnesota Public Radio: Do Police Officers Belong in Schools? (MPR News with Angela Davis, July 7, 2020)

MinnPost: No police in schools? This Minnesota district committed to an alternative four years ago (Erin Hinrichs, June 25, 2020)

Related News Stories:

Minnesota Public Radio: Poet stirs imagination with poem about police reform

Concord Monitor: With policing in the spotlight, districts search for alternatives to SROs

Associated Press: Feds, school reach agreement on student restraint, seclusion

Questions: Questions or requests about the Student Safety Coach Model can be emailed to info@district287.org.