For Immediate Release - April 04, 2012

DA Hosts 10th Annual School Safety Conference

District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett yesterday thanked 300 Essex County educators, administrators and student resource officers for their dedication to young people at his 10th annual school safety conference at the Peabody Marriott. 

“In a time when there are so many ways we can communicate and connect with others, whether its by text, tweet or on Facebook, young people are reporting that they do not have three adults in their life that they can turn to in a time of trouble or challenge,” Blodgett said.  “When there is a lack of connection, young people often act out.

“About a month ago, two young men allegedly discussed attacking their school on Facebook.  Another student saw the conversation and reported to authorities.  The good news here is that one of their classmates felt compelled to notify police.  By creating that connection and creating an environment of respect among students, teachers, police, parents and administrators, we build safer schools and safer communities.”

The conference featured 3 national speakers: child/teen development specialist Dr. Robyn Silverman; leading motivational speaker for at-risk youth Mr. Al Duncan; and director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Bernard Melekian.  Congressman John Tierney and Derrek Shulman, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League also briefly addressed the conference.

COPS Director Melekian acknowledged the hard work and limited funds for those working in education and law enforcement.  “You all are on the front lines of public safety and the importance of the work that you do cannot be understated,” he said.

Dr. Silverman, who regularly appears on national television shows and is the parenting expert for Ask.com, discussed how the negative media messages that young people are bombarded with can cause them to associate negative behavior with popularity or “being cool.”  Adults, on the other hand, need to show young people their authentic self.  “Let them know you have made mistakes and share how you picked yourself up and moved on.  Kids need to know we are real people who have faced real challenges,” Silverman said.

Al Duncan shared his own story of growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia, the oldest child of teenaged parents.  After attending college and becoming a professional saxophone player, he walked away from that career to take care of his youngest brother who had gotten involved in drugs.  Throughout his story, Duncan challenged the audience to see past their daily frustrations and understand that they make a difference.  “Your service is paramount to the success of the community,” he said. 

District Attorney Blodgett has hosted a school safety conference every spring since taking office in 2003.  The topics have ranged from understanding school shooters and the physical safety of the building to bullying prevention.  He invites national experts to address local educators, administrators and police officers on current topics of interest.

“I am proud of the partnership we have in Essex County among schools and law enforcement.  In working together, we encourage young people make good decisions.  All of our prevention efforts are designed to give young people and their parents information so that they can make informed decisions.”

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