The following was submitted by the office of Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone:
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone and the non-profit Middlesex Partnerships For Youth (MPY), today hosted the 17th Annual School Safety Summit to discuss how improving security measures and fostering environments that encourage students to speak out about threats are vital in efforts to create a safe school climate.
Titled “Psychological Safety and Physical Safety – Bridging the Gap,” the summit explored ways for schools to address safety issues through physical measures such as security and threat assessment teams, and also through psychological needs including creating positive relationships and an inclusive school culture. This year’s summit took place at Nashoba ValleyTechnical High School.
“By opening up the lines of communication between students and school administrators and faculty, and establishing user friendly systems in our schools, we can all work together to ensure a safer, more welcoming environment for our youth,” District Attorney Leone said. “Because students are our most effective communicators regarding the safety, health and well being of themselves and fellow students, we are enlisting them as critical partners in our efforts.”
The summit was a timely, informative gathering of 350 professionals from schools, law enforcement, and community agencies from across Massachusetts. The event featured a keynote speech by District Attorney Leone, as well as two additional speakers:
Dr. Scott Poland, international expert on school safety, spoke about lessons learned from tragedies such as the Columbine High shootings and the importance of well-functioning threat assessment teams and how schools must have a fair and effective response system in place.
Rachel Poliner, educational consultant, shared her multi-layered and in-depth approach for schools to strengthen relationships and build a positive culture in academic and non-academic settings.
Lastly, DA Leone presented this year’s Citizenship in Action award to Erica Hansen, director of North Reading Youth Services. Each year the award is given to an individual living or working in Middlesex County who has made their community safer and healthier by taking positive action to enhance positive school climate, reduce youth risk-taking behavior or support the values of caring, cooperation and civic responsibility.
Hansen was nominated by North Reading’s Director of Academic Services Patrick Daly for her work to increase opportunities for youth by getting them involved in many locally-based organizations. She is a member of North Reading’s P.A.U.S.E Committee (Public Awareness and Understanding of Social Education) and played an active role in the creation of North Reading’s Bullying & Intervention Plan. She is also a member of North Reading’s Community Impact Team, a partnership that “works to identify factors that have a negative impact on the quality of life for the citizens of North Reading and implement solutions that solve the underlying problems.”
District Attorney Gerry Leone was elected in November of 2006 and took office in January 2007. Within four years, he has implemented a number of new initiatives designed to better protect and serve the people of Middlesex County. In 2007, Leone established the office’s first Cyber Protection Program, forming a team of prosecutors and investigators specifically focused on the protection of children and other citizens from the predatory dangers of the Internet. A career prosecutor with a record of implementing innovative school safety programs, Leone has also launched an initiative to more comprehensively expand those prevention and intervention efforts into the middle schools, and to the 26 colleges and universities of Middlesex County.
Leone also created a workplace violence prevention training program which aims to train safety, security, legal, and human resources personnel on how to minimize the risk of a violent incident occurring in workplaces, including private companies, schools, public governmental agencies, and others.
Additional, Leone is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. (MPY), a non-profit organization which provides prevention and intervention resources and training to Middlesex school districts and communities. Today, in collaboration with the District Attorney's Office, over 60 Middlesex school districts are committed to examining the pressing social, legal, and health-related issues and solutions that face schools and communities. Through the current and future activities of MYP, educators, parents, and students can regularly engage in collaborative trainings with law enforcement, social services, and community-based organizations as well as share the latest information and resources. Such interactions provide the foundation for creating solution-oriented, community-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing youth violence, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, hate crimes, and harassment across Middlesex County.
Middlesex County is the largest county in Massachusetts and one of the largest counties in the country with 54 towns and cities and 20 colleges in urban, suburban, and rural areas, comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including communities such as Ayer, Cambridge, Concord, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Natick, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn.