School safety is fundamental to fostering positive outcomes for children. Comprehensive interventions that combine universal and targeted approaches to prevention can create environments where students feel safe, connected, and engaged; this is key to improving school safety and, ultimately, student well-being. Such interventions, however, must be complemented by implementation strategies when delivered in community settings to facilitate research-to-practice translation and achieve desired public health outcomes. Implementation strategies, such as implementation facilitation, are theory-based methods to enhance uptake of evidence-based programs. Implementation strategies can enhance intervention effectiveness and build community capacity for intervention sustainability.
Research and community school partners developed a comprehensive behavioral intervention designed to promote a positive school climate guided by a school-based 3-person leadership team (3-PLT) as part of a 2-group cluster randomized controlled trial. This team, with complimentary areas of expertise, employ an implementation facilitation approach to support the effective delivery of the three key intervention components: (1) restorative justice practices (RP); (2) mental health first aid (MHFA); and (3) crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). We collected mixed method implementation data from 5 elementary schools during our initial year of program delivery including 3-PLT interviews and fidelity surveys.
Survey data findings from Year 1 indicate that 3-PLT members generally reported positive relationship building in schools and progress in implementing RP. They also agreed that teachers and staff generally know how to respond to mental health challenges (MHFA). Few schools were able to deliver all 3 programs in Year 1, and most did not yet incorporate CPTED. Qualitative results indicate that some of schools encountered notable challenges with intervention implementation, including logistical challenges with training and integrating the activities into the school day, securing appropriate school and community resources to support implementation and coordinating the three interventions.
The 3-PLT is a vital element of effective implementation for comprehensive, evidence-based school safety interventions. Implementation facilitation using a 3-PLT model is a promising collaborative approach to supporting universal and targeted violence prevention in schools. To improve program delivery and student outcomes, next steps can include developing a comprehensive school safety implementation toolkit that will address challenges identified by the facilitation team and providers. This will aid in providing structured, tailored implementation support and promote sustainability for the programs following the study’s completion.