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Safe School Climate Seminar Held



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Safe School Climate Seminar Held

By Eliza Hallabeck

A Safe School Climate Seminar for Newtown parents and residents was held on Thursday, April 12, at Reed Intermediate School.

Presenters for the evening were Sandy Hook School Assistant Principal Anthony Salvatore, Newtown High School psychologist Jennifer Hoag, and Newtown High School social worker Suzanne Tyler.

For most of the presentation, Dr Salvatore outlined Connecticut state law, Public Act No. 11-232, “an act concerning the strengthening of school bullying laws.” With the newest version of the law, Dr Salvatore said there has been a pivotal shift in how the state monitors mean behavior, no longer called bullying.

The law also reclassified the term of “bully” to “perpetrator” and the term “victim” to “target,” according to the presentation.

The law, Dr Salvatore explained, is centered around creating an environment that is good for everybody.

Dr Salvatore said the new mantra is, “If it is mean, intervene.” That concept does not apply to students only. He said that mantra is applicable at supermarkets or anywhere else.

“We’re asking kids to not be bystanders… and we need to model that,” he said.

A “Safe School Climate” button has been added to the district’s website, www.newtown.k12.ct.us, said Dr Salvatore. The website includes a link to the school district’s Safe School Climate District Plan, the school district’s Safe School Climate policy, and more.

A next step Dr Salvatore said is to have the district’s Character Development Committee branch out to reach more of the community.

“We can’t do it alone,” said Dr Salvatore, “you can’t do it alone, and the community can’t do it alone.”

The Character Development Committee will be focusing on how to improve relationships at home, at school, and throughout the community, he said.

“It if is going to work anywhere,” Dr Salvatore said, “it is going to work in Newtown.”

While the district’s character plan will branch beyond school walls, Dr Salvatore said the new version of the state’s law applies only to students.

Some changes in the new version of the law from previous versions include making schools responsible for inspecting allegations of mean behavior that happen both in and out of school, a definition of cyberbullying has been added, new responsibilities will be given to district employees to help oversee the law, and more.

Any employee in the district is also now obligated to report instances of mean behavior, he said, and students can report instances at each school anonymously if desired.

Near the start of the presentation, Dr Salvatore gave a brief history of the school district’s Character Development Committee’s Core Character Attributes tree, which is displayed at each district school and in other areas around town.

“We’re looking at accepting differences,” said Dr Salvatore. “That is different than tolerating differences.”

The tree, which outlines positive character attributes, is at the center of the district’s Safe School Climate Plan, Dr Salvatore said.

Each of Newtown’s schools, the presenters said, has created its own model to help instill positive behaviors in students.

As Ms Hoag and Ms Tyler explained, at NHS the acronym “HAWKS” has been used by the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) team to help students remember have respect, act responsibly, work with honesty and integrity, keep high expectations, and support the community.

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