On Monday evening, a Community Awareness Forum at Jim Thorpe Area High School addressed bullying in schools and introduced programs available for students and families.
Presentations were made by: Lynai Miller; student services coordinator at Behavioral Health Associates; Dr. Helene Katz, licensed staff psychologist at Behavioral Health Associates; Principal Thomas Lesisko, JTAHS; student representatives of JTAHS; Superintendent Barbara Conway, JTAHS; Kim Mulick, Carbon County deputy chief juvenile probation officer; and Chief Joseph Schatz, Jim Thorpe Police Department.
"The purpose of this evening is to make you (the public) aware of the services that our school district provides for students and their families," Conway said.
"Also, to invite community members in from organizations to discuss the services they provide and also to discuss some common concerns," she added.
The school district had been working with Dr. Katz and Behavioral Health Associates (BHA) to put this program together since the summer.
BHA works with 21 school districts in Carbon, Schuylkill, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton counties.
"We (BHA) strive to serve children academically and socially while providing the best educational and/or mental health setting to meet their needs," said Miller.
Dr. Katz discussed what bullying is and what it looks like. She also talked about different forms of bullying including verbal, physical and cyber bullying. She said that one of the best ways to stop bullying is to raise an understanding of the issue in the community.
"The reason why we pulled this program together is because our agency has started to see more and more children traumatized by bullying in the community around us," said Dr. Katz, adding that she wasn't just referring to Jim Thorpe, but school districts and communities all over.
Lesisko said that in the Jim Thorpe district teachers and staff are educated about bullying as well as the students. The schools also work to promote positive behavior. The staff is trained to look out for bullying, and if an issue occurs it is reported, recorded, and appropriate action takes place.
JTAHS seniors, Kayla Susko, Erin Bucci and Brooke Tworkowsky, discussed programs that are available at the high school level. Some of the programs include: S.A.D.D, Olympian Leadership Council, and Olympian Learn and Serve.
Conway also discussed more programs that are available in the school district, including: Positive Action, Project Prosper, D.A.R.E, School Wide Positive Behavior and SHINE.
These programs are designed for students and families to promote positive behavior and good decision-making skills.
Mulick and Schatz talked about the law when it comes to youth and criminal acts involving bullying.
Schatz also said that the Jim Thorpe district and the police department work with each other to ensure the safety of the students.
After the presentations the public was given the chance to ask questions. Some questions included: further details about certain programs and further details about steps schools take when someone is bullied.
Questions were also asked regarding the recent incident involving a weapon being brought into school. Some parents questioned how issues like that are handled.
Conway said the forum was not about discussing specific details about the case, but certain generalized questions were addressed about student safety.
Concerns were voiced over how student safety is maintained if there are tips about suspicious activity.
Conway said in that situation, the police department is notified on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Katz said parents could suggest having programs that focus on certain topics, like student safety. The school district and BHA will be looking into future programs to offer the community. The public was asked to share ideas about possible future topics.
"I was pleased with the turnout. I am happy that the parents and the community came out," said Conway.