By: Yuritza Arroyo
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes announces that the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office (PCPO) Bias Crime Legal and Investigative Team is continuing its community outreach and conducted educational presentations on June 13 at the Windsor School in Pompton Lakes on the topics of Bias and Bullying.
According to officials, the goal of the presentations was to educate students about Bias by providing real-life practical examples to empower students to make better decisions.
The presentations, led by Senior Assistant Prosecutor Billy Can, Assistant Prosecutor Jessica Kalafut, and Assistant Prosecutor Jessica Petrella, were geared toward sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students, with a second session dedicated to High School and Post-Grad students.
The students were taught the difference between a Bias Incident and a Bias Crime with an interactive discussion about the ramifications of targeting a person of a protected class, based in part, upon their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and/or disability.
Also in the presentations were Pompton Lakes Police Department Patrolman and Bias Crimes Officer Joe Capobianco and School Resource Officer Peter Forte.
The Bias Legal Team explained that actions by a student directed at a classmate from a protected class would not only be investigated by the school but would also be reported to the PCPO Bias Unit and could subject a student to criminal consequences.
The Bias Legal Team focused on the impact of social media on students, explaining that even though certain questionable statements/comments are conveyed on a virtual platform and heard by a large audience does not preclude them from being considered Bias, nor should a student believe that repeating those words or actions would insulate them from possible repercussions.
Students were encouraged to report any suspected Bias incidents to a school official or another trusted adult and, most significantly, reminded that negative actions taken today against another could have lasting effects that may impact college plans and beyond.
Students were further advised that reports of suspected Bias or Bullying could also be reported anonymously to a teacher and then reviewed, with possible involvement of the PCPO.