SPRINGFIELD, NJ - The Springfield School District will implement virtual reality as a tool to help with intervention in cases of harassment, intimidation and bullying (“HIB”) in the coming school year.

Prompted by Board President Scott Silverstein, Superintendent of Schools Michael Davino engaged in a 20-plus minute presentation at the June 18, 2018 Board of Education meeting at the Jonathan Dayton High School library, delving into the details of a motion on the agenda to enter into a “cooperative agreement” with Kinful, Inc.

Kinful, a New York based nonprofit, according to its website is a social-emotional learning curriculum that teaches students what binds humanity together is greater than what divides us. We do this by pairing classrooms around the world to partake in a virtual intercultural exchange where students share self-created virtual reality (360° immersive video).

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Davino explained that in conjunction with certain grants obtained by Kinful, the Springfield School district would be one of the first to use the Kinful model to provide immersive intervention techniques to address the social emotional issues surrounding HIB.

Under the program, students would participate in the creation of virtual reality situations to help them understand and experience bullying first hand, as a means to introduce corrective measures for the behavior.

“The children would be able to experience what it’s like to be bullied in a virtual reality environment, with licensed social workers and therapists at hand, so it will be under controlled circumstances,” Davino reassured.

Davino described the approach as, “cutting edge,” explaining that the program would be integrated into the District’s existing “Bullies to Buddies” program.

“All of our HIB approaches are two dimensional. This will bring a third dimension into the intervention process,” he underscored.

“The [current NJ] HIB law is a reporting law, it is not an intervention law,” Davino reminded the board. “It doesn’t give you any parameters or expectations or guidance on what to do.” He added that the district had always been proactive when it came to bullying, so the HIB law didn’t provide any new tools, it only added reporting requirements.

“We’ve got some high hopes in our discussion with them, including engaging parents in the process, he added.

“We hope to have that all up and running by September, and hope to have some actual experiences by the second half of next year,” noted Davino, in closing

In other board business:

●     Board President Scott Silverstein announced that School Business Administrator Matthew Clarke was installed as the president of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials.

●     Clark announced the 2018 Board of Education Elections Candidate Kit is now available for downloading. Candidate applications are due on July 30th at 4 p.m. A newly signed law allows candidates to petition jointly, and be bracketed together on the ballot.

●     The Superintendent Davino reported on a review of communication protocols, currently underway, in response to difficulties in communicating with parents after a recent school bus breakdown.

●     Davino announced that on June 8th, Drama 1 students Lee Matthews, Maya Melryn, and Jaline Simmons Larsens, were honored by ATC Studios’s Young Playwrights Competition in Clifton NJ. Originally selected as one of eight finalists, the students play, “Alex’s Secret,” placed first in the Competition.

●     Davino also announced that on June 1st, the State Teen Arts Festival in Ocean County College acknowledged several Springfield students for their participation in the Festival. Senior Nisarg  Ghandi and Zach Martini took a bronze award, finishing in third place statewide in the Festival’s Showcase Spotlight Awards in the Filmmaking category, for their video of Dayton’s new instructional media center.

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