A pilot program from the Atlantic County District Attorney’s Office teaches each other police officers and students with special needs.
The Atlantic County Special Needs Registry School Outreach Program brought police officers from three different municipalities into classrooms to learn about students with special needs and help teach them.
“The coming of the police was amazing because (the students) saw them as a real person,” said Brigantine special education teacher Luanne Klemm. “At the end of the five weeks, they felt comfortable talking (to the police) about their personal experiences. So the kids really loved it.
She admits they were hesitant at first, especially since some students had already had agents at their homes for trouble.
But, that was the purpose behind the program, according to Raymond Royster, director of community outreach for the district attorney’s office.
“It allows officers to enter the school system in their jurisdiction to find out more about the children (there),” he explained.
It expands the Atlantic County Special Needs Registry that launched two years ago, which allows people with special needs to register in the event of an emergency or interaction with law enforcement. order.
Royster and Lt. William Adamson of the Special Victims Unit worked together to develop the program, with the two bringing a personal connection.
“We both care about a love for a child with special needs,” Royster said.
Brigantine, Egg Harbor City and Northfield were chosen because they represented different demographics in the county, he explained.
It didn’t take long for the districts to answer the call.
“You three towns couldn’t have been easier to work with,” Adamson said as the band held a press conference announcing the program last week.
It kicked off in week 6, which this time brought the students to the officers. The classes visited the police department in their respective towns. Each student also received a certificate marking their graduation.
But even before the program was completed, its success was already being heard in other departments.
Four or five police chiefs called to ask when the program would arrive in their districts, Adamson said.
They expect to do five or six more schools in the spring.
Education doesn’t stop at kids and officers, Royster said.
“But parents also learn that you can trust the police to teach and protect your children in an emergency as well,” he said.
“It was amazing for our academics, it was amazing for our community, and I think it was amazing for the police as well,” said Lisa Glick, special education supervisor for Brigantine Schools.
“(The officers) are so excited to come and they’re very proud of the lessons they’re creating,” she continued. “They really enjoy working with our researchers. »
Prosecutor Will Reynolds promised more from his office, saying his office is committed to showing how much it cares for those it serves and changing the perspective many have on law enforcement.
“I think a program like this is a great way for the community to learn more about people with different abilities and how you can approach them,” Glick said. “This program has been absolutely amazing.”