Schuylkill County District Attorney James P. Goodman and local law enforcement announced that they will again be hosting the "Shield 7" program in county school districts in the months of May and June.
The program is a proactive approach addressing decision making issues pertinent to youth in the county. The program, which is designed and implemented by Goodman, Chief Jeffrey Walcott of Schuylkill Haven, and other members of local police departments, is aimed at stressing to seventh grade students the important choices they make when presented with realistic scenarios.
The name "Shield 7" is a way for law enforcement to interact with seventh graders and stress to students the importance of chocies that they make in their lives. The main theme of the program is that "choices count" and the program focuses on three main issues that seventh graders are now facing or will face in the upcoming years - 1) bullying, 2) alcohol and/or drug use, and 3) "sexting" or the proper use of cell phones.
Goodman emphasized that these are all very important issues and his office, along with local law enforcement, wants to be proactive in going to the schools to educate the youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, "sexting"/texting, and bullying. Goodman said that law enforcement wants to avoid the potential tragedies that can happen if students make poor choices on any of these important issues that they will be facing in the next couple of years.
Goodman noted a most recent bullying case in Massachusetts where nine individuals were arrested and charged with the death of a female in a bullying incident. Goodman said it is important to teach the youth that bullying that is occurring in schools must stop and that all students should be aware of the bullying going on around them and make positive decisions to stop bullying in their schools.
The progarm also talks about drugs and alcohol and warns students that in upcoming years they will most likely be confronted by someone who tries to entice them to use drugs and/or alcohol. The program team hits home on the fact that trying and/or using drugs and alcohol is a bad decision that can lead these young students down the wrong path.
"Sexting" Goodman said, is where students transmit sexually explicit photos over their cell phones. Most recently, a law was passed in Pennsylvania changing sexting from a misdemeanor offense to a felony offense.
Goodman and the program teaches students the potential dangers of the internet and sexting so that the students known that their cell phones and computers are not toys and that they are using them the way they were intended to be used. If students use their cell phones and computers appropriately, then the DA's office and law enforcement won't be put in a situation where they have to charge students with crimes which can affect the students for the rest of their lives.
Goodman said the program not only hits home with real life issues it is also designed to make the events fun and exciting as the students are broken down into teams and in between talks the students participate as teams in fun challenging games. They alternate with fun teams events and a Shield team sport relay.
The initial year of the program was 2009 and it was funded from the U.S. Department of Justice and about one half of the school districts in the county participated in the program. This year the program is funded by the DA's forfeiture account. Goodman said it is important that the money seized is used to give back to the community and educate children.
The agencies participating in the program are local police departments, DA's office, sheriff's office and the county juvenile probation office.
The school schedule follows:
Monday, May 10, 8-11 a.m., Tamaqua Middle School.
Tuesday, May 11, 10:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Schuylkill Haven.
Friday, May 14, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Shenandoah Valley.
Monday, May 17, 1-2:50 p.m. Pottsville Middle School.
Tuesday, May 18, noon to 3 p.m. St. Clair.
Wednesday, May 19, 8-11:15 a.m. Tri Valley.
Friday, May 21, noon to 2:30 p.m. Minersville.
Wednesday, May 26, 8:15-11:15 a.m. Mahanoy Area.
Tuesday, June 1, 8:15-11:15 a.m. Blue Mountain.
Friday, June 4, times to be announced. Pine Grove.