SPLENDORA, Texas (KTRK) -- As students head back to school these next few weeks, one district is taking an alternative approach to safety and security.
Last year, Splendora Junior High launched a program that drove home the message of kindness and compassion.
As the new school year begins, students already have a positive outlook on the coming school year.
Jennifer Jones has been teaching students everything from leadership skills to public speaking, driven by positive reinforcement.
"At the beginning of the year, we built a social contract. That contract is designed by the students. We come up with a set of guidelines of how we're going to treat each other," Jones explained. "Kids are greeting each other, giving each other high fives, a lot of positive talks, and a lot of affirmation."
But it wasn't always like this.
Splendora Jr. High Principal Kent Broussard said, "It was a difficult environment. Not very friendly, not very open."
Broussard says a few years back, they had bullying, cliques, and students hanging out in specified groups. Something needed to change.
That's when they introduced Capturing Kids' Hearts, a program structured to bring students together through kindness and compassion.
"It made a huge impact in turnaround, discipline, grades and just the way we treat each other," Broussard said. "Teachers and students greet each other, hugs, and high fives."
Broussard says they saw major improvements, with 50 percent fewer failure rates for the semester. The disciplinary rate dropped as well, with nearly a 45 percent decrease in referrals to the front office to see the principal.
Assistant Superintendent Rick Kershner said, "The campus is just a much more positive inviting place to visit."
It's one of the many initiatives that will improve the school's overall safety and maybe even combat school violence down the road.
"We believe that we can only mitigate negative things within our society by teaching people how to build appropriate relationships," Kershner said.
This is something the students couldn't agree more.
"To be able to be in a positive place and have everybody excited to be there, it makes it a lot easier for us to learn, too," student Terra Doucet said.
Splendora ISD capturing kids' hearts for safer schools