For more than 15 years, Safe Routes to School programs have used the five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Engineering) as their organizing framework. In recent years, we added a sixth E, Equity, to bring the focus towards creating healthy, thriving communities for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, incomes, and abilities. Effective immediately, we are dropping Enforcement as one of the 6 E’s of Safe Routes to School.
Over the past several years, our organization has actively worked to advance social justice and racial equity, and we have struggled with the Enforcement E for some time. As part of the addition of Equity several years ago, the Safe Routes Partnership refocused the Enforcement E on community approaches to safety, understanding the deep issues that exist in many communities with law enforcement. While we have shifted our communications and guidance away from promoting police as a critical part of traffic safety initiatives, helped highlight the inequitable impacts of law enforcement on people of color, and promoted traffic and public safety strategies that do not involve police, we now know that that is not enough. Through an examination of what is within our organization’s ability to change, and more importantly listening to our staff, organizational partners, and partners in the field, we know that approach is no longer sufficient. Being an anti-racist organization is a journey, not a destination, and we are committed to continuing to take clear and decisive steps to undo the systems that prevent Black people, indigenous people, and people of color from moving around the world safely, healthily, joyfully, and in their full expression of self.
Safe Routes to School is a community-driven initiative with support from teachers, parents, extended families, school administrators, transportation professionals, and many, many more. When kids walk, bike, and wheel to school, it boosts their confidence, attendance, and academic performance. It gives kids more time to be physically active, spend time outdoors, connect with their friends and neighbors—all things we know nurture social connection, mental health, and feelings of wellbeing. We recognize that there may be healthy, community-driven relationships with law enforcement that support some programs across the nation; however, we will no longer recommend such partnerships as foundational to the start, maintenance, or growth of a successful Safe Routes to School program.
What’s next? To emphasize the importance of tailoring a Safe Routes to School program to the needs and assets of the community it serves, Engagement now will become a new E. It will be the first E as listening to community members and working with existing community organizations is how Safe Routes to School initiatives should begin.
Over the coming months, you will see updates to our existing resources to reflect the removal of Enforcement and the addition of Engagement, as well as new guidance on how to support Safe Routes to School programs through this new orientation. Leading with the two most critical elements, the Six E’s of Safe Routes to School are now:
This change comes from listening to community members and partners; we are a learning organization committed to listening, reflecting, and growing. We welcome suggestions and feedback as we navigate this important change. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We remain committed to identifying ways to eliminate inequities for all Black, indigenous, and people of color so that they can lead healthy, thriving, and full lives.