Two nationally-recognized safety and security experts joined Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone at a conference today to teach local school districts and law enforcement how to identify red flags and other indicators of potentially dangerous student behaviors and how to address mental health issues that could impact safety in their schools and communities.
The “Be Safe, Feel Safe” conference was presented by Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office to address school safety concerns in light of the deadly attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Joining DA Leone at the event, held at Nashoba Valley Technical High School , were Dr. Robert Kinscherff, clinical/forensic psychologist and mental health expert, and Donald Schmidt a disaster/emergency management consultant, author and CEO of Prepardness, Inc.
“Extreme acts of violence against our school children, like those committed at Sandy Hook , cause us all to reconsider what it means to be safe in our schools. That is why I took this opportunity to remind our partners to remain committed to our Middlesex approach to keeping our kids safe, healthy and well,” DA Leone said. “We expect our children to return home to us safely every day from school. To be safe and feel safe in our school settings, we need to focus on the development of healthy culture and environment in our schools, as well as safe and secure school settings. It is our job to ensure that we listen to and communicate with our young people in ways that allow for meaningful intervention and prevention.”
At the conference, Schmidt spoke about programmatic approaches to school safety and security, based on his expertise in threat assessment. Dr. Kinscherff discussed the varying challenges of mental health issues that students face and red-flag indicators for potentially violent situations.
DA Leone discussed the importance of information sharing among schools and law enforcement and also among students, parents and staff. He highlighted the Community Based Justice program which assesses at-risk youth and students involved in the criminal justice system by bringing together all stakeholders from police and probation to social workers and relevant state agencies. DA Leone also urged each school district to review its Threat Assessment Teams to create action plans to identify at-risk students and proactively address students’ needs before a tragedy occurs.
Leone is the Chair 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 MPY, 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 .
– Information from Middlesex DA’s office