Empowering students to be "safe, strong and free" was the focus of a presentation at Thursday's Parsippany Board of Education meeting, where officials announced that the district's application for a New Jersey Child Assault Protection grant was approved.
Director of Special Services Suzanne Olimpio told the board that the grant will cover the district's five Title I elementary schools for the 2012-13 school year.
"The primary mission of this program is to prevent bullying, abuse and abduction of our children," Olimpio explained, adding that the grant money will be used in schools with programs addressing low-income students. "A Title I designation is based on the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch."
She said the CAP program offers training in three areas:
- inservice training in "signs and symptoms" of child assault for teachers,
- a parent-focused module that helps moms and dads teach their children to be more assertive so that they don't become bullying, assault and abuse victims,
- and interactive classroom workshops to help students learn how to deal with crisis situations.
Olimpio said some of the training sessions for teachers and parents are already underway and that others are being scheduled.
Also discussed in the CAP program are various community outreach efforts and resources available to parents, she said, adding that the student workshops are the grant program's main focus.
"They're [offered] at three levels, so they really focus on the development level of the child," said Olimpio. "The first level is aimed at preschool, children ages 3 1/2 to 5, and it's offered at Eastlake and Lake Hiawatha schools. Some [lessons] are aimed at students with disabilities, and others are for general education students. The second level focuses on kindergarten students; it's similar, but takes into consideration that the children are a little bit older. And finally, the last part of the program focuses on children in grades 1 through 5."
Olimpio showed the audience videos showing how role play employing dolls is used in student workshops to teach children program concepts.
"It helps students see dangerous situations that they may get themselves into and how they can use strategies to deal with those situations," she said. "It really is about assertiveness, empowering children and helping them to understand that they do have resources, that there are places to go, that there are people to talk to."
She said the CAP program is part of a larger, districtwide antibullying effort, adding that the program for students takes place over three consecutive days, so that by repeating concepts, young children have a better chance of retaining the information presented. With older children, she added, the concept of peer support is underscored, as well as making sure students understand that teachers and guidance counselors are available to assist them too.
The district's five Title I elementary schools are Eastlake, Lake Parsippany, Knollwood, Lake Hiawatha and Rockaway Meadow.
The amount of the NJCAP grant, whose program cost is based on the number of participants, was not disclosed. According to NJCAP.org, school districts in most cases pay 30 percent of the program cost and the state covers the remainder.