Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is beginning a new initiative to improve safety and build relationships among students, school resource officers, and school administrators. The "Lead Together" program is a partnership between the district, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Triad Restorative Justice, and the Winston-Salem Foundation.

“Our students have lived experiences and we need to hear their voice,” says Tricia McManus, interim superintendent. “We need to hear their voice, and we need to be open to listening and we need to able to put ourselves in their shoes when we interact with them.”

Triad Restorative Justice is providing training to SROs and students. They will meet monthly in what's called restorative circles. The student-led gatherings provide kids a space to discuss their concerns, perspectives, and experiences.

The goal is to empower students to work through problems and for SROs to get a better understanding of what students go through each day.

“The roundtable we have been having with the Lead Together team has been great, positive feedback from the SROs,” says Lieutenant Robert Bethea with the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. “It will give a better understanding that the SRO isn't there for only school safety, but we're also there for the different situations that kids go through every day, so we are excited to be part of this team.” 

The Winston-Salem Foundation is providing funding for the program.

“It's attempting to really address some systemic issues starting at the core with school resource officers and school administrators who create policies and cultures in schools and bringing them together with students to think through how they can make it a more positive and affirming environment for everyone concerned,” says Layla Garms with the Winston-Salem Foundation.

The program is being piloted in two schools to begin — Carver High School and Reagan High School.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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