Discussion held about keeping students safe

By TAYLOR

MURCHISON-

GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Plainville Community Schools hosted a safety forum on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and the five-person panel discussed the precautions taken to ensure every student is safe and given the opportunity to perform at their best.

The forum also served as an official introduction between Plainville families and School Resource Officer, Jessica Martins.

Martins has served on the Plainville Police department for two-and-a-half years, and has a degree in criminal justice. As the SRO, Martins explained, she serves as a resource in a three-tiered system.

At the base level, she is a law enforcement officer, and thus she will work to maintain a safe learning environment. And while she will be working to “keep the peace,” she stressed that the “goal is to deter bad behavior,” rather than to dole out punishments. At the highest level, Martins will serve as a teacher. She has already taught an alcohol awareness and drunk driving class, will be teaching the D.A.R.E program at Wheeler elementary school, and hopes to organize and teach a R.A.D or, rape aggression defense class, to all women in the district, student and staff.

Plainville Police Chief, Matthew Catania, said the police department has an “open relationship” with the schools and the Board of Education, which stems from a “collaborative spirit” and continues to evolve.

This collaborative effort presents itself in several ways. For example, 83 new security cameras were added to the school district over the summer. The police department works with the information technology department to monitor those cameras. And, Catania said, that the department has been able to train on campus, in order to better understand the layout of the schools.

District director of technology Kevin Ross discussed various technological advances that are aimed towards student safety. One such step would be the introduction of the GoGuardian computer software system, which allows Ross and his team to monitor what students are using their Chromebooks for, and sends notifications when students attempt to use their Chromebooks for something that is not school-sanctioned.

Ross also discussed a program that will be going live in all Plainville schools in October. The Raptor Visitor Management System is a security measure that scans visitor I.Ds and is able to screen each visitor against something like the sex offender registry.

And while the technology department takes strides to protect students from outside factors, assistant superintendent Steve LePage wants to take strides to protect students from each other. LePage also serves as the chair of the district Safe School Climate Coalition, and discussed how bullying can have a “pervasive effect on someone’s life.”

LePage started by defining bullying, which is the repeated use of written or oral or electronic communication in the effort of enacting power over another person. LePage then offered some tips and tricks for students and parents.

If you yourself are being bullied, LePage recommends saying something early on, telling a trusted adult, save any evidence of the bullying, and stressed the importance of not retaliating. As a parent, LePage recommends contacting your students teacher, at the elementary level, or contacting the school administration. He also said that any parent is more than welcome to call his office to discuss a situation.

On the school’s end, LePage reminded parents the schools are mandated reporters, that they take investigations seriously, and that they will take the appropriate actions to stop the behavior from being repeated.

When you thinks of bullying, you may picture students getting into a physical altercation. Toffolon School psychologist, Karen Troiano, said  “academics is only part of the equation” when judging a students success. Bullying, as LePage said, can have a profound effect on the social-emotional well-being of students.

Due to the societal stigma, Troiano said, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are under reported and thus, under diagnosed.

Over the summer, Troiano created modules on anxiety and depression. These modules are available online, and all parents can access these modules, regardless of what age your student may be.

Plainville High School held a School Safety forum last Wednesday. Speakers were, from the left, Plainville Police Chief Matthew Catania; School Resource Officer Jessica Martins; Assistant Superintendent Steven LePage; Plainville School Psychologist Karen Troiano; and District Director of Technology Kevin Ross. (PHOTO by JANELLE MORELLI)