Safe School Climate Seminar Held
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, â€œan act concerning the strengthening of school bullying laws.â€ 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 â€œbullyâ€ to â€œperpetratorâ€ and the term â€œvictimâ€ to â€œtarget,â€ 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, â€œIf it is mean, intervene.â€ That concept does not apply to students only. He said that mantra is applicable at supermarkets or anywhere else.
â€œWeâ€™re asking kids to not be bystandersâ€¦ and we need to model that,â€ he said.
A â€œSafe School Climateâ€ button has been added to the districtâ€™s website, www.newtown.k12.ct.us, said Dr Salvatore. The website includes a link to the school districtâ€™s Safe School Climate District Plan, the school districtâ€™s Safe School Climate policy, and more.
A next step Dr Salvatore said is to have the districtâ€™s Character Development Committee branch out to reach more of the community.
â€œWe canâ€™t do it alone,â€ said Dr Salvatore, â€œyou canâ€™t do it alone, and the community canâ€™t do it alone.â€
The Character Development Committee will be focusing on how to improve relationships at home, at school, and throughout the community, he said.
â€œIt if is going to work anywhere,â€ Dr Salvatore said, â€œit is going to work in Newtown.â€
While the districtâ€™s character plan will branch beyond school walls, Dr Salvatore said the new version of the stateâ€™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 districtâ€™s Character Development Committeeâ€™s Core Character Attributes tree, which is displayed at each district school and in other areas around town.
â€œWeâ€™re looking at accepting differences,â€ said Dr Salvatore. â€œThat is different than tolerating differences.â€
The tree, which outlines positive character attributes, is at the center of the districtâ€™s Safe School Climate Plan, Dr Salvatore said.
Each of Newtownâ€™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 â€œHAWKSâ€ has been used by the schoolâ€™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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