Statement of Avon Superintendent of Schools Paul Zinni Regarding Follow-up Actions after May 1 Incident

Avon Public Schools
Paul Zinni, Superintendent
1 Patrick Clark Drive
Avon, MA 02322

For Immediate Release

Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017

Contact: John Guilfoil
Phone: 617-993-0003
Email: john@jgpr.net

Statement of Avon Superintendent of Schools Paul Zinni Regarding Follow-up Actions after May 1 Incident

Staff to be Trained on State Reporting Procedures, District will Continue Work Toward Improved Communications

AVON — Superintendent of Schools Paul Zinni is today providing an update to students, faculty, staff and community members regarding actions taken by the school district after a knife was discovered in a student’s backpack.

In summary, when the staff returns on Aug. 28, the district will begin retraining its employees on the state legal requirement to notify the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families about any such incidents, and the Avon Public Schools will be implementing new notification and press release procedures in the coming school year.

On May 1, school administrators at Avon Middle High School searched the backpack of a middle school student and found a knife. While the school department notified the Avon Police Department promptly, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent the district a letter over the summer indicating that its review of this situation found that the Avon Public Schools is required by law to notify the Department of Children and Families after any incident involving a child with weapon in their possession.

Working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Avon Public Schools has revised its training curriculum for all faculty and staff and will notify all employees regarding this legal requirement at the start of the new school year on Aug. 28. The memo will also be sent to DESE, and once it is received and reviewed, the matter will be considered closed.

In the district’s correspondence with DESE, the state department also reminded the Town of Avon that it is required to designate a school resource officer. Superintendent Zinni worked with the Avon Police Department to secure this position and looks forward to announcing the individual chosen as soon as the Avon Police Department has filled that position.

For the coming school year, the Avon Public Schools is also seeking to implement a new notification policy. If ever there is an incident at a school that draws the interest of the public, the School District will send an immediate notification home to families detailing — within the boundaries set by law — what occurred and what actions are being taken.

Said Superintendent Zinni: “I understand that there is a tremendous desire for information, especially when it involves something potentially dangerous like a weapon being brought to school. However, state and federal law are clear in what we can and cannot say.

“With that in mind, I am aware that rumor and false information thrives in the absence of facts. The May 1 incident should have been reported to the Department of Children and Families, and DESE has given us guidance on this matter. We will continue to notify parents of these issues as soon as possible, and we are implementing a new communications plan to further improve our relationship with residents.

“I apologize for our failure to notify the proper state agency and I will continue to work toward positive and active communication with the community going forward. By updating and implementing new procedures this year, we expect that there will be less miscommunication and speculation and more dialog with families, faculty, and staff.”

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