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LaVera allegations shed light on school policy, online safety

Published: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 11:21 a.m. CDT

Three months after news broke that a California man allegedly preyed on local teenagers after visiting two Newton schools, the school board is making progress on a huge safety gap that impacted our students.

We think the new requirement that all visitors to Newton schools must provide a form of photo identification is a good first step. The next effort — to put into place a volunteer procedure that includes a background check, however, will go much further to ensure student safety.

If the volunteer policy is approved, anyone who would be in direct contact with students will be required to fill out a volunteer application and would comply with a background check that will include criminal, child abuse and sex offender history.

It’s an extra step for a parent who wants to volunteer in a classroom, but one which surely has the students’ best interest in mind.

Another change to policy would require anyone wishing to visit Newton classrooms as an outside resource to seek approval “well in advance.” While the policy should be more concrete about the time period for approval, it does allow the principal to reject the visitor. Moreover, the policy requires parents to sign a permission slip to allow their children to attend presentations from outside visitors within the schools.

Ultimately, these policies will provide tools to the people on the front lines in our school building. We’re fortunate that most schools are maintaining singular locked entrance points and using security cameras. Safety is a priority in the district, and we’re grateful for that.

The accusations against David LaVera will likely continue to be discussed until his charges are resolved in court. While it’s not a bright spot in our community, the school board has taken the opportunity to make our schools safer by reviewing its policies.

It has also given parents an opportunity to review social media expectations with their children. According to court documents, LaVera is accused of using Facebook messages to entice two teenagers. Those messages, according to police, ranged from how the victim should sneak out of the house, to what they should wear.

If you haven’t talked to your children about online safety, perhaps now is the time.

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