Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School BBQ a Great Success!

On August 18, 2011 the Van Buren County School District, SAFE Coalition, Keosauqua Chamber, and Keosauqua Rotary held a Back to School BBQ at the Van Buren Middle/High School. During the BBQ parents and students were able to register for the school year; tour the newly remodeled building; meet the teachers, staff and administration; attend presentations; win door prizes and eat some great food. There were approximately 200 parents and students in attendance for this great event. Door prizes given away included a boy’s bike (donated by Lee McIntosh), a Flip Camera (donated by the SAFE Coalition) and Pizza Gift Certificates (donated by Circle B).

The presentations held during the BBQ were on Bullying: parents/students rights when being bullied and the code of conduct/ Warrior Pure Performance. The bullying presentation was put on by Nate Munson, the Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools. Iowa Safe Schools is a coalition of educators, civil rights and LGBT advocates in partnership with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Nate is a graduate of Clarke College and his previous experience includes work with individuals with mental and physical disabilities, diversity programs and political campaigns. Since joining Iowa Safe Schools in May 2007 Nate has become known as a statewide leader on bullying and LGBT youth development. The presentation addressed parents and students rights when a student is being physically/cyber/verbally bullied by other students. There were 26 parents and 32 students who attended.

The “Code of Conduct/Warrior Pure Performance” presentation was put on by Greg Jones, Van Buren Community Schools Middle School Administrator/Activities Director and Tonja Jirak, Stop Grant Director. There were approximately 12 parents and 24 students in attendance at this presentation. They outlined the new Van Buren Community Schools Code of Conduct and described the plan for the commitment of the school district to a Warrior Pure Performance program. The core of these policies is to do the following:
Encourage students to perform their best and to take pride in that performance.
Help students realize how important it is to be at their best both physically and mentally and to be committed to be alcohol, tobacco and drug free.
Help the youth and parents to develop a sense of character, dignity and civility that speaks highly of the school and community.
Remind all to respect our opponents and acknowledge them for striving to do their best.
Remind parents to be aware of where your child is spending their after game time – who they are with and what they are doing. Support your student by providing alcohol and drug free settings.
Remind the parents to respect the task the coaches face as teachers of performance and character, and support them as they strive to educate the youth.
Remind the parents to be a “team fan”, not a “my child” fan.
Remind the parents to be an active and vigilant parent committed to Warrior Pure Performance.

The event proved to be a fun and successful evening for all in attendance! If you are interested in information on Bullying: Parent/Student Rights or the New VBCSD Code of Conduct please contact the SAFE Coalition at or 319-293-6412. You can check out what the coalition is about and is doing on our website -; on our blog -; or on Facebook - Van Buren County SAFE Coalition.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The SAFE Coalition Attends the EUDL Conference

The Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (UDETC) held another successful National Leadership Conference (NLC)! The 13th Annual National Leadership Conference “Spotlighting Community Solutions to Underage Drinking” was held in Orlando, Florida on August 10-12, 2011. The conference registered nearly 1500 participants. Van Buren SAFE Coalition was represented by STOP Project Director, Tonja Jirak, Van Buren Sheriff Deputy Jon Tharp and Reserve Officers Lee McIntosh and William Cline.

The conference, held in conjunction with the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association, included distinguished speakers from OJJDP and other leadership in the field. This extends UDETC's reach nationally to federal, state and local agencies as well as their outreach to state and local communities through their relationship with 56 EUDL Coordinators in each state, the District of Columbia and five US Territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands). The NLC is a gathering for States and communities with interest in enforcing underage drinking laws and in sharing of resources.

The conference included thought-provoking plenary sessions along with engaging presentations by law enforcement, judicial members, youth, researchers and community leaders. This year’s NLC theme, “Spotlighting Community Solutions to Underage Drinking”, and with every year at the conference being a learning experience, this year was no exception. We heard about innovations and effective practices that communities across the Nation developed and implemented. Communities shared their challenges and how they overcame them. Important new research on how alcohol affects the adolescent brain, ways that technology support law enforcement, how science based strategies impacts prevention and many other exciting new tools, technology and resources were revealed, shared and discussed. This year the NLC included;

-In-depth pre-conference activities for EUDL coordinators and invited guests,

-Successful experiential learning exercises,

-Exciting youth track and presentation and

-Law Enforcement, Volunteer of the Year, Youth Achievement and Success Story Awards.

For additional information on the OJJDP's UDETC and their resources contact 1-877-335-1287 or the SAFE Coalition at or 319-293-6412. You can check out what the coalition is about and is doing on our website -; on our blog -; or on Facebook - Van Buren County SAFE Coalition.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Van Buren Middle/High School Conduct Policy FAQ’s

What is a conduct policy?
Van Buren’s conduct policy provides students and parents with a set of guidelines of what is expected in terms of a student’s conduct in order to be eligible to participate in activities at Van Buren. Participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege and students must demonstrate good behavior not only during school hours but at all times in order to earn the privilege of participating.

Why is a conduct policy necessary?
Van Buren’s code of conduct sets behavioral standards to assist youth in making good decisions. The reason for the conduct policy is not just to punish those who break the rules. It sets clear and consistent boundaries for participation in athletics and activities at Van Buren.

Isn’t there already a conduct policy? What’s new about it?
Van Buren’s conduct policy was updated to better reflect a positive model of behavior that students will be held to. The policy also now addresses issues that have arisen due to technological advances such as cell phones and the internet. Cyber images and texting play a big role in youth culture and students must make good choices about how they use these new means of communication.

What if my student isn’t in sports? Can my student be unable to attend prom?
All students that are involved in activities of any sort at Van Buren, including music, theatre, clubs and even school sponsored events such as Prom and Homecoming are expected to abide by the standards set in the conduct policy. If a student is found in violation of the policy then they will be ineligible to participate in activities as covered by the policy.

Who should I talk to if I’m aware of a violation?
Violations should be directed to school staff and/or the building administrator for investigation. Steps will then be taken to address the occurrence. However there must be more evidence than hearsay to find a student in violation of the conduct policy. Additional guidelines for reporting a violation can be found in the policy.

Want to know more? Attend the Back to School BBQ presentation on August 18th at 6:15pm in the Van Buren High School Cafeteria.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Environmental Strategies – Why They Work!

For many years, prevention strategies have been an important part of reducing the harmful use of substances. The best known prevention strategies are the ones that address individuals for intervention. They are designed to influence their attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behavior. Environmental Strategies that seek to reduce or eliminate substance abuse and related problems by changing the overall context within which substance use occurs are less well known.

Dr. Deborah Fisher describes individual strategies as follows: “Traditional, individually oriented strategies accept the environment and risks it imposes as given, and focus on enhancing individuals’ abilities to resist temptations to use substances. These strategies provide information, skills training, and opportunities for personal development through a variety of programs, including school-based curricula, mentoring, and peer education and counseling. The goal of such efforts is to reduce the probability of substance abuse by changing characteristics of individuals. Much of the prevention to which youth are currently exposed falls into this category.”

Yet, individuals do not become involved with substances solely on the basis of personal characteristics. They are influenced by a complex set of factors, such as institutional rules and regulations, community norms, mass media messages and the accessibility of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It has now been found that it is better and more effective to change the environment and availability of the substances to prevent substance use/abuse rather than just addressing individual issues.

Environmental strategies incorporate prevention efforts aimed at changing or influencing community conditions, standards, institutions, structures, systems and policies. These strategies are effective in modifying the settings where a person lives, which plays a part in how that person behaves. They can produce quick wins and instill commitment toward long-term impact in a community. They also address more people at one time and so are able to help more community members.

In Van Buren County the SAFE Coalition has been working in conjunction with community leaders to implement some of these environmental strategies to help prevent substance use/abuse. Some examples are:
•Youth working in the community to implement and strengthen tobacco free areas with additional signage.
•Youth sticker shock to provide counter advertising related to the costs of providing alcohol to a minor.
•Providing Merchant Trainings to help our local businesses to develop strong policies and procedures to prevent underage purchases of alcohol and tobacco.
•Compliance checks including a policy for law enforcement.
•School Conduct Policies with a proactive approach as opposed to reactive.

If you would like more information on Environmental Strategies please contact the SAFE Coalition at or 319-293-6412. You can check out what the coalition is about and is doing on our website -; on our blog -; or on Facebook - Van Buren County SAFE Coalition.