District Attorney Hosts First Annual “Safe School Summit” in Northampton

Education policy specialists, psychologists and social justice advocates will meet on Wednesday with local school administrators and teachers at the Pioneer Valley’s first annual “Safe School Summit.” The conference aims to help schools improve their overall school climate as a means of preventing bullying.

Jana McLure is an organizer for the event sponsored by Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, whose office is leading the initiative. She says the office’s tradition of helping schools maintain safe learning environments goes back around twenty years. McLure says things changed when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick passed anti-bullying legislation in 2010. The law was in part a response to two adolescent suicides in Springfield and South Hadley, Massachusetts — both incidents were tied to in-school bullying. McLure says the law required schools to create and implement bullying prevention and intervention plans.

“They have been wrestling with this but I think they’re also voicing that they’re ready to move past that and really get into the larger area of looking at school climate. Because we really figure if you can tap into improving a schools climate you’re really going to correct some of those other negative outcomes that happen.”

District Attorney David Sullivan says the summit will feature a number of speakers and panelists who will offer perspectives ranging from LGBT-specific harassment issues to strategies for empowering girls and eliminating bullying from adolescent culture. He says there will also be a conference-wide discussion where the group of over 100 participants can share observations, concerns and ideas from many vantage points.

“It involves parents, it involves students, it involves teachers and administrators. It isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t something that happens over night. But it really takes a community, not just a school community, to address bullying and harassment in the school systems.”

Sullivan says one major thing he hopes participants will take home with them, is that the DA’s office has a wide range of resources to offer — like its three-person “safe school response team.”