Child safety award goes to Macerino

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:02

    Vernon — An attack on a child is a nightmare that no parent would want to face, and would do anything to prevent. This goal is shared by the school districts that shelter the children while they are at school, and according to the state of New Jersey, the Vernon Township School District is doing a very good job. In recognition of this, Superintendent Anthony J. Macerino has been given the 2009 New Jersey Child Assault Prevention Award, the only superintendent in the state to earn the award. According to Board President Howard Whidden, he is also the program’s biggest champion. “He boldly and courageously took the initiative to build school involvement, enlist board of education and community support and provided the necessary leadership to ensure success,” Whidden said of Macerino. He is also the reason that the district has the program at all. While the CAP program was brought into New Jersey in 1985, it didn’t initially take off in Vernon, because according to Whidden “some felt we already did enough to protect our children.” But Macerino didn’t agree with that assessment, and when he became the superintendent, he resolved to bring it back. By 1999, he had gotten a grant to restore the program and brought the entire school community together to support it. The Child Assault Prevention Program started in Ohio in 1985, in reaction to the rape of a second-grader. Over the past 20 years, it has expanded across the country and the program is used in schools throughout New Jersey. It teaches children ways to prevent assault, escape tactics and other preventative measures. It has expanded over the years to include ways to combat teasing and bullying, and in Vernon, various programs are given to children from kindergarten through eighth-grade. According to Macerino, Vernon’s program uses role play, discussions with students and various “student friendly” means to review the importance of keeping safe under all circumstances. Students are taught how to remain alert to the dangers presented by potential child molesters and other predators and how to deal with bullying. Another big component of the program teaches children who to turn to when they feel uncomfortable about conversations or contacts they have had or if they are experiencing bullying. This is not the first time Vernon’s program has been honored, either. In 2003, Frank Sharkey, the campus monitor at Vernon Township High School, was given the same award in recognition of his contributions to the district’s prevention programs. Macerino will head to Trenton on April 3 to receive his formal honors from the state.