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Speakers: Parents need to stay involved

Sunday, March 24, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The older that students get, the more they need their parents, according to Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, who was among a panel of professionals discussing school security issues Saturday.

“I’ve found that as kids get older, parents may tend to relinquish” control and involvement, Cotton said in the forum held at Patrick Henry Community College. He advised that no matter what a youngster’s age, “talk to them and pay attention to what they are doing.”

Cotton, Martinsville School Safety and Dropout Prevention Coordinator T.J. Slaughter, Henry County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Steve Eanes, Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers, Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper and Patrick Henry Community College Emergency Planning Coordinator at Gary Dove outlined concerns, visions, and/or opinions about ways to address schools security issues, and then responded to questions, such as how parents can be involved.

“Talk to students. It is not OK (for them) to go into their bedroom, lock the door and stay there for hours,” Cotton said. “Continue to be actively engaged” regardless of the student’s age.

Slaughter said that as students go from elementary to middle and finally high school, parental involvement dips.

“In elementary school, they are always there,” Slaughter said of parents. Parents may be involved somewhat in middle school, but by the time a youngster gets to high school, parents are unlikely to visit the school, he said.

“But just knowing what your child is doing, knowing what is going on in their lives” will make a difference to them, Slaughter said.

Another question was whether students who report instances of bullying, weapons violations and other incidents are protected from retaliation at school.

In the county schools, students can report concerns anonymously, and the school division is looking into the possibility of investing in a texting program that also would provide anonymous reporting, Cotton said. He added that students also have opportunities to talk to guidance counselors.

Students’ names are not used when administrators/law enforcement look into a report, according to Slaughter and Cotton.

Slaughter said the city school division participates in a “Safe Share” program in which students and/or parents can file a report online at the school division’s website.

“It is not acceptable,” Cotton said in response to a question about bullying policies in schools. He added the division has “spent a lot of time” educating parents and students about bullying and cyberbullying.

“What a lot of students don’t understand is that what they do out of school” can affect their experiences in school, Cotton said. Whether using a home computer to cyberbully or bullying someone in the hallway at school, “we certainly don’t tolerate it,” he added.

Slaughter said principals and other school administrators “start the day dealing with Facebook and Twitter issues,” and often devote so much time to finding the truth that they may not have time for their assigned duties.

“Parents need to pay close attention” to youngsters, become their friend on Facebook, and have the passwords to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Cotton said. Also, he recommended youngsters and teens use a computer located in a common area rather than being allowed to use one in their bedrooms.

Also, educate students that there are reputation issues in addition to cyberbullying, Cotton said, and added that many prospective employers and colleges check online for information about applicants.

Saturday’s discussion was sponsored by the Give Back Foundation, Ministerial Alliance, SGA at the community college and Chick-fil-A.


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