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Safe School Ambassadors Program


The Safe School Ambassadors® (SSA) program was developed in 2000 to help prevent and stop mistreatment and cruelty among 4th- to 12th-grade students. Since then, over 650 public and private schools have adopted this powerful program in 26 states and in Canada.


Following the tragic event at Columbine High School, schools disproportionately focused on school safety from the “outside-in,” installing airport-like security: locks, fences, metal detectors and security cameras.  They largely ignored the role that students can play in reducing violence and mistreatment.  SSA programs provide an “inside-out” approach, which recognizes the power that students have to change things from within and puts them at the center of the solution.


Students see, hear and know things adults don’t.  They can also intervene in ways adults can’t, because they can get and hold their peers’ attention.  While adults may make and enforce the rules at school, students create and maintain its social norms.


Research shows that 70-85% of students have been passive bystanders to peer mistreatment.  Most often, they do not intervene because they fear retaliation or don’t know what to do or say. Their silence amounts to tacit consent, which reinforces an environment of cruelty and mistreatment.


SSA trainings mobilize the bystanders, but not just any bystanders. Socially-influential, opinion leaders (the students who shape the school’s norms) from the diverse groups and cliques on campus are carefully identified and chosen by both the school faculty and their peers.  They are trained in nonviolent communication and intervention skills to prevent, de-escalate and stop mistreatment among their peers.  It is with their peers that they can be safe, cool, and effective. The SSA program is sustained by utilizing regularly-scheduled, small group meetings, in which Ambassadors strengthen their skills, share their experiences, and record their interventions.


As a result of having implemented the SSA program, schools report a reduction in violence, mistreatment and tension among students.  The program also engenders increased tolerance and acceptance of diversity, as well as an environment that encourages higher grades and attendance.


Safe School Ambassadors are trained for two days on how to notice and take action if they see trouble starting between people; they notice if people are being left out, or if somebody is emotionally upset.  They will quietly connect people in need with channels of help.  They will not be responsible for solving the problems of others, but will simply offer support, care, and information. They will be great observers of what's going on, and will try to get help to people before situations escalate. Ambassadors meet with their Family Group Facilitator once a month after the training to discuss mistreatment, strategies, and ways to improve student interaction. Not all students can attend the training,  but the fundamental information provided above can help students realize that they can make a difference.