Message from the Superintendent

Children and Violent Media

May 15, 2013

I have attended many meetings, workshops, trainings, conferences and webinars since that tragic day in December when 26 children and adults were senselessly murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. Like many of us, I have been searching to understand how such a situation could ever occur, so that in my position as superintendent I could prevent it from ever happening here.

I have learned a lot about school security in the past several months. I have looked at gun control, mental health issues, and the debate about armed guards in schools. Our district has tightened our entry procedures, updated our crisis plans, and hired a school security director to guide us as we look at architectural enhancements and purchase new safety devices.

Unfortunately, there is one area over which the school has limited control: viewing violent television, films and video games, and listening to aggressive music. As I read the research and review the reports, it has become very clear that media violence may increase the likelihood of violent behavior both physically and verbally. Many of our children spend an inordinate amount of hours consuming violent media. Parents, we need your help!!

It would be difficult to imply that media violence is the only or main reason for youth violence. However, consider the joint statement put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association which enumerates their shared convictions of the following negative effects of children’s exposure to violent entertainment:

  • children are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts, and that acts of violence are acceptable behavior;
  • it can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life, and can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs;
  • it feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place, and increases one’s fear of becoming a victim of violence, thereby increasing self-protective behaviors and mistrust of others; and
  • it may lead to real life violence, given that children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than those not so exposed.

Many recommendations have been put forth by the New Jersey SAFE Task Force to help parents on how to make healthy media choices for their children. Some of the suggestions include:

  • providing better education for parents on how to use the various media rating standards and the potential harmful effects of violent media;
  • providing helpful household tips for parents such as removing televisions, internet connections and video games from children’s bedrooms, and
  • co-viewing media choices with children, and limiting screen time.

Sincerely,

Enid Golden
Superintendent
Howell Township Public Schools


January 15, 2013

Dear Community Members,

As you are aware, the Board of Education and district administration have been actively exploring best practices in school safety since the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut last month. I wanted to update you on the safety upgrades we are instituting immediately, as well as those we are considering as part of our review of district safety standards.

Effective today, we are issuing a new Entry Door Access Protocol. We have collaborated with the Howell Township Police Department in establishing these guidelines for any visitors to our schools. Please note the following:

  • No visitors are to enter the building with students during arrival. All visitors to our schools will need to have an appointment to enter the building. (If you require assistance, an appointment must be made after the start of the school day.)
  • At the buzzer, it is expected that all visitors will state the purpose of their visit and/or specify with whom they have the appointment.
  • If the appointment is verified, the visitor will be buzzed in and must present themselves to the main office immediately upon entry.
  • Visitors will be required to show photo identification, and sign in to obtain a visitor’s pass.
  • It is imperative that visitors do not hold the door open for others behind them. Each visitor must be acknowledged individually through the buzzer system.
  • If you must drop off an item for a student (lunch, homework, etc.) you will be directed to deposit that item in a bin outside the main entry.
  • If you will be picking your child up early, you must notify the office in writing prior to dismissal. If it is an emergency, call the office to notify the school.
  • Front office secretaries will be required to call 911 and notify school administrators if the visitor is uncooperative, does not adhere to the procedures, or becomes threatening.
  • Ultimately, failure to follow these procedures may result in a lockdown.

We know that this protocol is more stringent than past practice and may inconvenience our visitors who are, as always, welcome in our schools. We are saddened by the need to employ this protocol, but the safety of our students and staff must remain our priority. Unfortunately, these are the times we are living in, and I am optimistic that our visitors will ultimately recognize our need to be as vigilant as possible.

We also know that with any change in process, there will be “glitches” as we begin our implementation. Please accept our apologies in advance, as well as our commitment to implementing these new guidelines as efficiently as possible. If you should require clarification regarding the new protocol, please contact your building principal. He/She will be happy to answer your questions to ensure your full understanding and adherence to our procedures. With your cooperation, our schools will be more secure for students and staff.

Moving forward, the Board has established a Safety Task Force which will develop recommendations to further improve the security of our buildings. Among the measures that will be considered are individual building risk assessments, panic buttons, police officers at each building, and cameras and access cards. The committee is comprised of Board members, staff members, and community members including parents and police officers.

The Task Force is being co-chaired by Timothy O’Brien, School Board Member and Ronald Sanasac, District Business Administrator. Your suggestions are important and always appreciated. Please forward any items to , and they will be directed to the Task Force Co-Chairs.

Sincerely,

Enid Golden
Superintendent
Howell Township Public Schools



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