Caesar Rodney Community In Shock Over Racial Situation

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald sent out an email and robo-call to parents and staff last evening about a racial epithet in connection with the Caesar Rodney mascot.  It appears, based on Facebook comments on their Facebook page, that someone photo-shopped the racial slur on a sign the mascot was holding in a picture.

Many parents thanked the district for taking such swift action on the issue.  The message sent out by Fitzgerald said the following:

STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD

The Caesar Rodney School District has been made aware of a picture that is being distributed through social media in which the Rider Mascot is holding a piece of paper with a racial slur.

The Caesar Rodney School District is distressed that our mascot would be used in such a manner and we strongly disavow the statement.

The Caesar Rodney School District and Caesar Rodney High School consider racial slurs reprehensible and are deeply disturbed by the content of this message.

We have zero tolerance for this behavior.

This matter is being investigated by the high school administration with the assistance of the Delaware State Police.

While I am a Dover High Senators fan, I do not condone this at all.  As I wrote on CR’s Facebook page, if this was a joke it isn’t funny.  If it was meant to be a hate symbol, may God have mercy on your soul.  Bottom line, people need to wake up.  It’s the 21st Century now.  We aren’t supposed to be this backwards.  But apparently some have not woken up from our country’s own dark history and think it is okay to call African-Americans by disparaging names.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of hate and the talk that accompanies it.  We saw the worst in hate last Sunday with the Las Vegas shootings.  This is the kind of news I hate to write about.

One commenter suggested getting rid of the Rider Mascot for a while until feelings calm down.  That is the absolute worst thing to do in my opinion.  That lets whoever did this win.  It’s like the old saying, “you don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  You certainly don’t give in to hate!

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The Delaware State Police Need YOUR Help For Delaware Students!

The Delaware State Police began the 2017-2018 school year “Operation BACKpack” yesterday.  This annual drive helps students who are unable to afford the essential supplies they need for school.  If you have the means, please help out our students who need it the most.  Here is their press release:

Good morning communities! It is hard to believe the next school year is right around the corner! To help prepare, the Delaware State Police Community Outreach Unit has established a program to assist elementary school aged children in need with the necessities for school. Troopers are asking for help with any donations to fill each child’s back-pack with school supplies. Troopers assigned to the Statewide Community Outreach Unit have initiated this program and are working with organizations in their communities to collect and donate school supplies for children in need. Donations can be taken Headquarters in Dover or to any Troop statewide by anyone wishing to help. Each Troop will have a box in their lobby for supplies to be dropped off for the project. The donations will be collected from July 10 to August 11, 2017 and the donations will be presented for the 2017-2018 school year, prior to school starting. A list of supplies needed for the students are listed below:

Backpacks

No. 2 pencils

Spiral notebooks

Washable Crayola crayons box of 24

Large pink erasers

Pencil cases

Colored pencils

Washable markers

Loose leaf wide ruled paper

Highlighters Composition books

3 ring binders

Plastic folders with pockets

Tissue boxes

Hand sanitizer

If you need to contact any of the Troopers in the Community Outreach Unit, their information by region is listed below:

Master Corporal Mike Austin (New Castle County) 302-365-8466

Corporal/1 Heather Imhof (Kent and Southern New Castle County) 302-698-8520

Master Corporal Rickey Hargis (Eastern Sussex County) 302-752-3804 Corporal/1 Juanita Huey-Smith (Western Sussex County) 302-232-3459

Please help the Delaware State Police give to the students who will need the essential supplies and materials for a successful school year. Thank you for your help.

Guest Post: Jennifer Cinelli-Miller On School Resource Officer Training

Yesterday, Delaware’s House Bill #142 was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill deals with training for school resource officers in relation to students with disabilities.  This is a great bill!  It passed the House and is now on the Senate Ready List for a full Senate vote.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams worked extensively with Milford parent Jennifer Cinelli-Miller to get this bill going.  With Jennifer’s permission, I present her public comment to the Senate Education Committee:

Good afternoon Gentlemen,

Thank you for allowing me to be here today to speak on behalf of this piece of legislation. My concern with officers being placed in our schools began in 2013, when the Milford School District, in response to the horrific events at Sandy Hook, hired School Resource Officers (SROs) for our elementary schools, including Morris Early Childhood Center. When I began my research, many issues surrounding the use of uniformed, armed officers at the elementary level became apparent.  Most of these issues concerned students with special needs.

The research also showed that SROs were not being provided with appropriate training in regards to behaviors, exhibited by children with special needs which are a manifestation of their disability. These behaviors can be viewed, by the untrained eye, as behaviors that reach a level that requires law enforcement intervention.  My biggest fear was that my daughter, whose Autism causes her to have very serious meltdowns, would be mistaken as a public safety risk and arrested, placed in handcuffs or worse could end up dead.

I took my research to then Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and R.L. Hughes – who was at Homeland Security at the time and was working with the school districts to identify improvements to security measures in their buildings. None of the recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security included adding officers. 

The very first year with SROs in the schools in Milford brought about an incident which was by all accounts the “Perfect Storm” and ended with a child being committed to Rockford Center; strictly because he has Autism. There is nothing in this situation that the officers did that was inappropriate. There was a major breakdown in communication on the school’s part which led the SROs to be called for assistance instead of educators.

I had the honor of meeting with Rep. Williams after this incident and we set out to try to ensure that, at least in Delaware, SROs would be trained with a basic knowledge and understanding of children with disabilities. The family impacted by this incident wanted to ensure that it would never happen to another child.

This legislation will provide SROs with training and a basic knowledge of how the behaviors they may see in the schools are a manifestation of children’s disabilities and should be addressed by the educators in the schools.

I want to thank the many of those statewide that have assisted with this process. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet and work with so many of our wonderful officers from the Delaware State Police (DSP) and it was a relief to hear that they had just as much concern about SROs being utilized in situations that were meant for educators. I would also like to thank Brian Moore from Red Clay’s Public Safety Department, the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), specifically the Exceptional Children Resources group. Wendy Strauss and Sybil White from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens as well as Dafne Carnright from Autism Delaware and Bill Doolittle, a parent advocate who has been an instrumental part every step of the way.

So, after all of our hard work, I am here today to ask for your vote on this bill which has the support of DSP, the DOE and so many parents of children with disabilities.

Thank you,

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, Parent Advocate

Milford, DE

Delaware School Safety Report Shows Severe Limitations In Our Schools For Controlling Violence

If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”

“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”

The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.

These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.

School safety.  Two words that mean so many things to so many people.  To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence.  To some it means reporting requirements.  Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine.  Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.

Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall.  Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.  He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced.  Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety.  The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.

The below report has a great deal of information.  It is very long but it is worth the read.  Take the time to read it.  Every single word.  Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there.  It affects every single citizen of this state.  Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.

The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers.  Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer.  Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools.  Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.

There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.

Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.

It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money.  One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.

The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools.  I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE.  But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.