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District Attorney hosts Safe Schools Summit

Keeping Delaware County’s school communities safe from illicit drugs, bullying and violence was the focus of the 2012 Safe Schools Summit, hosted Oct. 24 by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

For 14 years the Delaware County Office of the District Attorney has been holding the Safe Schools Summit, partnering with school officials, safety officials and law enforcement to protect students from threats such as internet predators, bullies and acts of violence in the community. The 2012 Summit, held at the Drexelbrook, attracted more than 250 participants including educators, administrators, social workers, public safety and law enforcement officials, healthcare workers and providers.

“Bullying and drug abuse are just two of the many issues that our educators and public safety officials face within our schools, at the middle and high school levels and at universities,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “We hold this summit every year to promote a proactive rather than reactive approach to keeping our schools safe.”

“This year, out of concern for the number of drug overdoses we are seeing, we are highlighting a new initiative we launched to address the abuse of prescription drugs and use of heroin among our young people,” said Whelan.
Whelan and other officials presented information on the County’s Heroin Task Force, which is focused on prevention, education and awareness regarding the tragic consequences of heroin use in the community.

Whelan was joined in opening remarks by Patricia Stouch, parent of Pamela, a young woman who died of a heroin overdose in April 2010. Stouch told her daughter’s story and read excerpts from Pamela’s “recovery journal” to help shed light on her daughter’s battle with addiction.

Delaware County Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetian presented a slide show on prescription drug abuse and heroin, including a video that shows how teenagers often get their prescription drugs from the family’s medicine chest. Assistant District Attorney Sharon McKenna, Chief of Narcotics and Forfeitures, furthered the conversation on heroin with tips on how to identify drug abuse. She also detailed some of the new drugs showing up in schools.  An afternoon session at the Safe Schools Summit featured McKenna along with Dr. Frederic Hellman, the County Medical Examiner who reports that as of July, there were 33 heroin-related deaths in Delaware County for 2012.

Other Safe Schools speakers included Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Chief Joseph Ryan discussing bullying, Assistant District Attorney and Anti-Violence Task Force Chief George Dawson talking about safety in schools, and FBI Special Agent Joseph Metzinger talking about concealed weapons. Chief Ryan, in discussing bullying prevention and awareness, showed the video “Sticks & Stones,” which tells the story of a young boy who commits suicide as a result of being bullied by his classmates in school.

The goal of the DA’s Safe Schools Summit is to promote safe school environments, share best practices and encourage collaboration between local law enforcement, schools and community partners. The Summit was hosted by District Attorney Jack Whelan in partnership with the Drexelbook, a sponsor for the event.