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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
We’ve all heard it before: “Be nice to one another…treat others as you would like to be treated…say no to bullying.” After years of working with schools to deliver the typical anti-bullying campaign, our Fontana police officers saw that kids were tired of hearing the same mundane speech. Although we know how important this “speech” is, we knew it needed to be changed. Thus, the “Developing Minds with Laughs” comedy tour was invented.
The City of Fontana Police Crime Prevention Unit sat down and brainstormed about what makes students want to listen. What will keep them engaged while delivering a strong, much-needed message? Mutually, the unit agreed that the key to keeping students engaged is humor. Fortunately, a member of the unit was friends with a professional comedian. This comedian was already heavily involved in community outreach projects, therefore there was no question that he would be equally as passionate about educating students.
The unit’s discussion led to a meeting with the comedian, and the meeting resulted in the beginning of a great partnership. Luckily, the comedian already had a team of other comedians, a DJ, a contortionist and a magician who were all trained in clean comedy. After these developments, the Fontana Police Department was on its way to creating a unique program. Eventually, every school in the city heard about the creative program and wanted it on their campus. The team of comedians scripted their show based on the message the unit needed to deliver. We focused on incorporating the school district’s primary message about leading while being respectful, responsible and kind into the performance.
“Developing Minds with Laughs” became the name of the innovative program, and the title of the show was “Leading with Kindness.” In one week, we toured six schools and gave 14 performances for students ranging from first grade to eighth grade. Despite seeing the program 14 times a week, “Developing Minds with Laughs” never failed to make us smile as we saw the reaction from the children.
The kids were laughing, attentive, and, best of all, they were involved. Students and teachers were invited on stage to be immersed in the improvisation skits to act out important life lessons. As we listened to the students chant the overall message aloud with the performers, we realized we had never participated in a school assembly where the students were so engaged. Everyone was having fun and learning simultaneously, and we were surprised by the positive reactions from teachers and administrators. They were impressed by how fun, engaging and educational the performance was. After each show, every school principal was instantly attempting to schedule us for a return visit.
When we began promoting the show on the department’s Facebook page, the responses were amazing. Parents were thankful for the police officers being involved in their children’s school environment and education. From the humor and music throughout the show, to the magicians pulling white doves out of thin air, the students could not stop talking about the assembly to their parents. More importantly, the children remembered the program’s message of being respectful, responsible and kind.
The greatest part about working with comedians is that they can tailor an act for a specific message. Students never have to see the same assembly twice, as skits can be altered to reflect a different message, such as drug awareness or school testing.
The City of Fontana Police Crime Prevention Unit is no stranger to school programs. The unit takes great pride in working closely with school principals and students in the area, and we firmly believe in building strong bonds that will change perceptions of police officers from what the mainstream media portrays. Since the end of the anti-bullying performances this school year, we have been focusing our efforts on securing funding to grow the “Developing Minds with Laughs”program. There is a strong need for this program within our school district, and the Fontana Police Department is committed, now more than ever, to make this program the best it can be to ensure our children grow up to be respectful, responsible and kind adults.
Billy Green, Chief of Police
Fontana Police Department
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