students and school discipline

Spotlight: Old Lyme


School personnel learn
new approaches to discipline

Ansonia sentences
kids to … gym time?

Bridgeport cops, kids stop
giving each other a bad rap

Old Lyme cop club
helps kids shine

right response CT

CT just start—unequal treatment of youth

school police collaboration

school police training

using youth behavior data

understanding disciplinary data

CT juvenile justice

CT funding opportunities


Cop club gives students a chance to shine

“You guys better be videotaping this!” calls Jaiden, 16, as he steps onto a platform high in the trees.

Jaiden is preparing to hurtle through the forest on a zip line at a ropes course in Ivoryton. He is there with the Cop Club, a group made up of Old Lyme police officers and high school students, in partnership with the Youth Services Bureau (YSB). He’s been here before, but never had the confidence to make it to the top of the ladder.

To a chorus of encouragement from his peers and the adults, Jaiden jumps off the platform and sails through the trees.

“Oh my God, it was very nerve-wracking,” Jaiden says later. But he was glad he did it: “I felt like I did something that I regretted failing at before.”

Officer Martin Lane started the Cop Club shortly after he arrived in Old Lyme and realized that there was little interaction between the town’s police officers and its youth. For the first three years, Cop Club operated under a grant from the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. Since 2014, the town and police union have continued to support it. The group does a monthly activity during the school year, including a community service project — a holiday food and toy drive.

“I think it gives some of the kids a safe outlet, a place to feel comfortable,” said Lyme YSB Program Coordinator Missy Garvin. “It really provides a bond between the police and the youth.”

She selects kids to participate in the program. The group is a mix of kids who may be struggling in some area of their life and kids who are popular high achievers. One was mandated to attend by a Juvenile Review Board. Watching them perform outdoor group activities, though, they seem like a bonded group. There is lots of laughter and encouragement as they try to work out the physics of standing together on the whale board (basically a giant seesaw) without tipping.

“You see them start to sit together in school,” says Katie Colburn of the YSB.

The draw of Cop Club is the variety of activities, which have included trips to New York City, go-kart racing, and a fiercely competitive March Madness ping-pong tournament. “I heard about (Cop Club) from different friends, and they said it was awesome,” says Sydney, 16. Last year her friend, Lauren, 17, was able to tag along on a snow tubing trip when her sister was in Cop Club. “It was really fun and I really wanted to be chosen,” Lauren says.

The value of the program came home to Lane one day in the wee hours when he got a call about a runaway, a kid who had participated in Cop Club. The missing teenager’s parents were separated, and the boy was actually at his father’s house. The youth was caught in a messy family dispute. Several officers were already on the scene when Lane arrived. The boy walked up to Lane, threw his arms around him and began to cry. “That’s the impact we have on our kids,” he says.

Cop Club has been so successful that representatives were asked to present on it at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Garvin and Lane were on a panel with two girls who had been part of the program. Putting students on a national stage goes along with the project’s emphasis on developing leadership and confidence. That may mean speaking to a conference of professionals – or it may mean having the courage to step off a platform in the trees.

“I guess I’ve learned that if you put an effort into things, you’ll achieve more and not be nervous or scared,” says Jaiden, still smiling after his ride on the zip line.

Side By Side: Police and Youth program