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Project

Keeping Kids Safe in San Francisco Unified School District

SRI Education is assessing the impact of Project SECURE, a multitiered evidence-based framework designed to strengthen the resilience of students who are most vulnerable to disciplinary exclusion, gang involvement, and trauma.


Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, SRI Education is conducting a 4-year randomized controlled trial of Project SECURE in partnership with the Student, Family and Community Support Department of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The study’s objective is to evaluate the efficacy of Second Step, a social-emotional learning program, and Bounce Back, an intervention for children exposed to trauma, in 36 elementary schools in the district. SFUSD and SRI are administering school climate surveys to teachers, parents, and students; surveying students and parents to measure students’ social and emotional functioning; and collecting information on students’ academic and behavioral outcomes from school records. SRI researchers will use this information to assess whether Second Step and Bounce Back improve students’ academic and behavioral outcomes, especially related to school disciplinary consequences (such as office discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions).

Children react to trauma in various ways, many of which can challenge their relationships at school and their ability to learn. In addition to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma-exposed children may exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression, dissociation, and impairment in school functioning, including poor grades and high absenteeism. Even subclinical symptoms of trauma, if left untreated, pose a significant risk for the development of other psychiatric disorders with a substantial portion of traumatized youth subsequently developing depression, anxiety, and disruptive behaviors.

This crisis has prompted a call for innovative and research-based approaches for addressing barriers to learning—going beyond explicitly academic interventions and exclusionary discipline practices—to address the learning challenges posed by problematic student behaviors and the methods adults use to respond to them.

Through their Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is supporting community-driven, innovative solutions to the pervasive school safety issues plaguing our nation’s schools. In 2016, SRI International received a grant from NIJ to implement Project SECURE through a 4-year randomized controlled trial in partnership with the Student, Family and Community Support Department of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The overarching goal of Project SECURE is to evaluate the impact of a multitiered evidence-based framework to strengthen the resilience of students who are the most vulnerable to disciplinary exclusion, gang involvement, and trauma. Project SECURE will implement a primary prevention program and trauma-informed intervention in a majority of the SFUSD elementary schools while developing a model for replication and expansion that reverses the negative trajectory and boosts the social-emotional and coping skills of all students.

Project SECURE will enhance the physical and emotional security of more than 10,000 students in 36 elementary schools in an urban SFUSD by increasing their Safety, Equity, Caring, Understanding, and Resilience. Guided by the principles of evidence-based, multitiered, and responsive support systems, Project SECURE will offer universal and targeted interventions (Second Step and Bounce Back, respectively) to enhance school climate and student resilience, improve students’ social-emotional skills, reduce bullying and other behavioral incidences, remediate the devastating effects of trauma, and increase equitable response to discipline and access to services.

SRI Education’s primary objectives to meet this goal are to (1) support the implementation of Second Step, a universal-level intervention, in up to 36 elementary schools and provide teachers with training and consultation to establish restorative, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed learning environments; (2) support the implementation of Bounce Back, a secondary-level intervention, in up to 36 elementary schools with Grade 4-5 students who have experienced significant traumatic stress; and (3) enhance the existing Citywide Student Assistance Program to triage students and their families with tertiary-level needs and refer them to the appropriate community-based services.

The study presented here is supported by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, through Grant 2016-CK-BX-0002. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Justice.

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