Confronting the dangers our children face

Substance abuse, vaping, online predators, active shooter training all on the agenda of RCPS, Sheriff’s Office

By Holly Jenkins
Special to the Rappahannock News

Rappahannock County Public Schools hosted a Safety Summit this past week in collaboration with the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office, covering helpful safety-related topics for students, parents and community members..

The event began with a presentation by Joe Showker on digital ethics. Showker, an innovator in the field of internet safety, has worked on a variety of projects including serving on the Virginia Department of Education DOE/CTE Curriculum Development for Cyber Security Instruction.

ALICE (Active Shooter) Training was provided to students and parents alike during last week’s well-received Rappahannock County Public Schools’ Safety Summit, speakers for which included Rappahannock Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Ubben (left) and Deputy Mark Currence. By Holly Jenkins

During his informative presentation, Showker stressed to the audience that every keystroke online is trackable. Furthermore, personal data is obtained and sold to businesses for marketing purposes.

According to RCHS Principal, Jimmy Swindler, this was “both alarming and informative.”

“We all are aware of the dangers of online predators and identity theft but it was revealing to understand that the real predators are the social media companies we use, preying as they do on the data we willingly give them and then profiting on the sale of that data,” said Swindler. “Tips were given to change privacy settings on the various social media platforms we use, so as to limit the amount of personal data we give away that is subsequently marketed.”

Specifically, Showker encouraged the audience to turn off the location setting when updating their privacy settings. In addition, parents were urged to have an open line of communication with their children and to safely navigate the cyber world together. Since the internet is such a vital part of our society, it is important for parents to assist their children in making smart choices online.

Lynnie Genho, a parent with children in both schools, found this session to be quite eye-opening.

“The safety summit was a timely, informative, and interactive discussion that helped open my eyes to some of the dangers on the internet, while reassuring me that, as a parent, I can partner with my kids to harness the positive aspects of being online,” she said. “A huge thanks to all who worked to bring this to Rappahannock!”

Following the digital ethics presentations, attendees had the option of attending two different breakout sessions. The first option focused on vaping and substance abuse. Alan Rasmussen, Prevention Specialist from the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, described the warning signs of substance abuse. He urged the audience to communicate with their children if they see any warning signs.

Rather than asking, “Are you okay?” he urged parents to use the phrase “What are you feeling?” as a means to have an open, safe dialogue.

Rosanna Reed, parent of a high school student, found this session to be extremely beneficial.

“I really enjoyed Mr. Rasmussen’s presentation on the dangers of substance abuse among our teens and pre-teens and what we can do about it,” she said. “He stressed the importance of setting a good example for them. So much information is available to them through social media, TV, etc. When you see something unhealthy, talk to them about it. Share your beliefs and values.”

The second breakout session offered during the summit was ALICE (Active Shooter) Training, presented by Deputy Mark Currence and Sergeant Chris Ubben of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office.

ALICE is an acronym that stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate. During the training, the audience of parents and students (with prior parental consent) learned crucial safety and survival tips if faced with an active shooter event. This marks the fourth ALICE training that the school has hosted in less than two years.

Dr. Shannon Grimsley, RCPS Superintendent, expressed her gratitude to the sheriff’s office for continuing to provide this training. “We appreciate our partnership with RCSO in providing ongoing consultation and support as we train for the unthinkable,” she said.

Throughout the event, younger students participated in fun fitness-related activities hosted by Commit to Be Fit.

Rachel Bynum, RCPS School Board Member and parent, felt that the evening was a success.

“The event was well-planned, with a great dinner from our 8th grade ahead of a fun activity for kids, while teens and adults were in breakout sessions,” she observed. “It was good to be able to come together and begin to understand and address some of these issues so important to all of us.”

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