2017-12-06 / Editorial

Schools, law agencies partner for safety

Monday evening Lapeer Police Chief Dave Frisch brought one of his department’s officers to meet the Lapeer City Commission — at the request of the commission that expressed an interest at an earlier meeting to be able to meet and get to know the officers.

In attendance was Officer A.J. Wetzel, the police department’s full-time liaison officer who works in several Lapeer Community Schools buildings including Lapeer High School, Turrill Elementary, Center For Innovation and Rolland- Warner Middle School.

At the conclusion of the meeting several of the commissioners took turns to praise the work and personal relations Wetzel has achieved with students in the district as the result of him being there on a regular basis. Commissioner Catherine Bostick-Tullius, who has children in the LCS district, commented “I think they feel safer because you’re there.” And in the back of everyone’s minds were the threats of a Columbine-style massacre at Zemmer Middle School that continues to be reported in this newspaper.

At Zemmer, Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. Deputy Jimmy White has made great strides there as well to reach students and offer assurances of safety and to be there for students who may want to address issues of concern to them — such as drug use, bullying and other forms of intimidation.

In Imlay City Community Schools, Imlay City Police Officer Joe DeLuca has been in the schools for years, and just recently Almont Schools approved funding for a liaison officer in their buildings. In North Branch, Sgt. Matt Blair from the sheriff’s department is in district schools.

It makes good sense to partner local police with local schools, because the odds are better that the students will be familiar with the assigned officer owing to hometown events where he or she may have been seen by them going about their regular business.

At Monday’s meeting in Lapeer, Commissioner Joshua Atwood became emotionally choked up as he thanked Officer Wetzel because he knows first-hand from his life experiences the harm that bullying can have on a person.

County Press Editor Jeff Hogan was severely bullied in school — he was skinny, wasn’t among the popular athletic crowd and was quite shy at the time. He too sees the merit of school liaison officers, as well as proactive programs to talk about issues that can isolate children in their early developmental years or as they navigate puberty during the middle and high school years.

One such program was held Tuesday evening at Zemmer Middle School. LCS partnered with Chief Frisch of the Lapeer Police Dept. and Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna who together with Superintendent Matt Wandrie presented “Dangers of the Digital Age: At-Risk Behavior and our Young People.” A second presentation, open to the public, will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Lapeer High School.

The presentations touch on a number of topics — including cyberbullying, sexting, trafficking and drug abuse. Heavy subjects all of them, but messages students and parents need to hear and implement in their lives.

With virtually every student on the planet walking around with a cell phone in their hand or in their pocket, the presence of hands-on digital technology offers some people an opportunity to prey on others. While before if it wasn’t bad enough to get called names in the hallway, in gym or beat up on the playground now the harassment can find children anywhere, anytime because of the immediacy of cell phones and the internet.

What may seem like harmless behavior to the bully who may send hurtful words, pictures and illustrations to another student may become overwhelming to some children who may want to stay home from school or even contemplate harming the bullies at school through acts of violence.

Suicide already claims too many of our young people each year, often because youths couldn’t take the bullying and constant attacks that can result increasingly from cyber activity.

Words and actions have consequences. We commend the schools and law enforcement to take these issues seriously, and to send a message that hurtful behavior will not be tolerated.

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