(Editor's note: The following information was submitted by the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.)
WESTFORD –Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and Middlesex Partnerships for Youth hosted the annual spring school safety conference, SECURE XVIII - “Cultural Sensitivity and Civil Rights in Education,” on Thursday, May 26 at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford. This event is part of District Attorney Ryan’s ongoing efforts to bring educators, law enforcement officials, and community members together to keep students safe.
“Middlesex County is an incredibly culturally diverse county and celebrating our differences makes our community stronger,” said District Attorney Ryan. “This event presented new knowledge and information for attendees regarding cultural sensitivity and civil rights, giving them concrete strategies to improve culture and climate in their schools and communities.”
Approximately 200 education professionals received training on inclusion, diversity and cultural sensitivity in schools, creating safe schools and workplaces, understanding federal mandates, and best practices for preparing for the unexpected.
As part of the conference, District Attorney Ryan moderated a panel entitled, “Developing Respectful and Inclusive Communities”. The panel discussed ways that law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and educators can work together to foster caring and accepting environments within their local towns and schools. Panelists included Robert Bongiorno, Bedford Chief of Police; Reverend Traci Jackson Antoine, Director of OVW Domestic/Sexual Violence Project; Imam Hamid Bourote, Director of the Outreach Community and Resource Center in Malden; and Robert Trestan, Esq. Executive Director of the New England Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League.
Additional speakers included Dr. Janet Helms, Director of the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture at Boston College; Michael Joyce Esq., a partner at the law firm Nuttall MacAvoy &Joyce; Michael McCourt, the founder and CEO of Michael G. McCourt Associates, Inc.; Dr. Sarah Davila, District Administrator of Education and Partnerships for Somerville Public Schools; and Nancy Macias-Smith, SomerPromise Wraparound Coordinator for the City of Somerville.
Speakers identified the challenges schools face in creating environments that are inclusive and safe for all and offered a range of solutions and best practices in cultural sensitivity.
This was the 18th annual conference as part of the SECURE (Safe and Effective Community Understanding and Response to Emergencies) program. SECURE was created in 1999 as a pilot program in Newton designed to provide participants with an opportunity to experience hands-on training in school and community-based emergency situations.
Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. (MPY) is a non-profit organization which provides prevention and intervention resources and training to Middlesex school districts and communities. District Attorney Ryan is the Chair of the MPY Board of Directors. Through the efforts of District Attorney Ryan and 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.