The Orange County Human Relations Council is a non-profit organization that operates BRIDGES, a program aimed at creating and sustaining safe and inclusive school environments that value diversity. BRIDGES is designed to enhance the understanding of race-related issues throughout Orange County. The program works to prevent the escalation of intergroup tension, conflict and violence that divides communities into factions based on race or other differences. The BRIDGES program operates only in middle and high schools, but the Orange County Human Relations Council also offers programs for elementary schools, police departments and businesses.
The main purpose of the BRIDGES program is to organize a task force of students, parents, administrators and faculty who will collectively work towards improving race relations on their school campus. The program begins by working with the school principal to identify committed participants for the task force. It then brings together task force members and about 30 students to attend an all-day training workshop on race relations and reconciliation. After the workshop, the task force assesses the school's racial climate and develops a working plan on how to improve the situation. The Orange County Human Relations Council continues the relationship with each school for a minimum of three years.
During the 1996-97 school year, the human relations council administered the BRIDGES program in 56 schools in 18 districts. Over 15,000 students, 2,400 teachers and 1,300 parents participated in the BRIDGES program. One school reported that the BRIDGES program helped reduce suspensions by 20% compared to the previous year.