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Prevention Council Hears About The Safe School Climate Act



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Prevention Council Hears About The Safe School Climate Act

By Eliza Hallabeck

The Newtown Prevention Council heard a presentation by Sandy Hook School Assistant Principal Anthony Salvatore during its meeting on Thursday, January 19, regarding the state’s new bullying policy, renamed the Safe School Climate Act.

As Dr Salvatore explained to the council, the first bullying law was released in 2002. It was a paragraph long. By 2009, it had been revised to a length of three pages, and now the current law, Dr Salvatore said, is eight pages.

“This kind of just shows what has happened, and how it has evolved,” said Dr Salvatore, holding up a print of the act, highlighted to show the different changes.

In the Safe School Climate Act, he continued, there are 61 references to the word “bully,” and 11 references to “safe school climate.”

“The legislature is moving in the right direction, but it is too much emphasis on bullying and not enough on safe school climates,” Dr Salvatore said. “They have made progress, but there is still a long way to go.”

Dr Salvatore also reported the district’s new Safe School Climate plan is now available on the district’s website, www.newtown.k12.ct.us, as required by law.

The state, Dr Salvatore continued is moving in the direction of improving the climate to limit the instances of bullying within schools. Another transition, he said, is having people, including school employees and community members, monitoring for mean behavior rather than bullying.

“Everybody recognizes what is mean,” said Dr Salvatore. “Not everybody can recognize what is bullying.”

Another change in the law, he said, now has schools responsible for instances of mean behavior that happens off school grounds, and the law also defined “cyberbullying.”

Other changes within Newtown that have been put into place due to the act include adding new responsibilities to a designated employee at each school, mainly assistant principals and lead teachers in the district. Those employees now act as safe school climate specialists along with their other job responsibilities. Dr Salvatore has also taken on the title of safe school climate coordinator for the district.

Any employee in the district is also now obligated to report instances of mean behavior, he said.

Dr Salvatore also said parent resources will be offered on the district’s website to further their understanding of the new act.

First Selectman Pat Llodra, who was present for the meeting, said she likes the direction the state’s conversation is going from bullying to safe school climates.

“I think it is a better focus,” said Mrs Llodra.

Newtown Prevention Council Co-Chair Judy Blanchard, who is also the school district’s health coordinator, said the implementation of the Safe School Climate Act will also support Newtown’s initiatives with its Character Development Committee and other programs in the school district.

Also during the meeting, the Prevention Council heard updates from members on upcoming and recent initiatives, and received updated information on grants provided to the town through council efforts.

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