A Night of Pizza, Principals and Police Brings Internet Safety to Islip

 A Night of Pizza, Principals and Police Brings Internet Safety to Islip

Commack Road and Sherwood elementary schools partnered with the Suffolk County Police Department on Jan. 17 for the second annual PTA-sponsored “Being Police SMART: A Pizza Party with the Principals and Police” event, held at the middle school. Sherwood Principal Chad Walerstein and Commack Road Acting Principal Lynn Burke were joined by Suffolk County Police Department Community Relations Bureau Officer Sabrina Pitch and 3rd Precinct Community Liaison Officer Eiffel Ramirez to discuss electronics usage and internet and gaming safety.

After enjoying a family pizza party in the dining room, students and their parents moved into the school auditorium for the presentation portion of the evening. District attendees included Islip’s superintendent, Dr. Ellen Semel, and the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Dr. Christopher Smalley, as well as Board of Education Vice President Tom Leggio.

“Basically, online etiquette is our 21st century character education,” said Walerstein in his welcoming introduction. “In the past, we might have taught students about different character traits to represent themselves. Now they have to do those things online. One of the things that we teach students at Sherwood is the THINK acronym. We tell them, before you click, before you say or do something online, think about it. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Whenever we have students come down to the office dealing with social media issues, we point to the THINK sign in my office.”

Officer Pitch, a familiar face as a countywide school presenter for the past several years, provided helpful tips and proactive strategies to keep students safe. She urged the assembled parents to keep communicating with their children regarding internet usage and devices, and discussed the challenge of keeping up with current social media apps and websites frequented by students.

“Every day there’s thousands of new apps out there,” Pitch said. “As soon as you learn about something, they’re on to the next thing.”

She also warned that children shouldn’t play “detective” with potentially dangerous adults on the internet.

“They think it’s this game where they’re going to get the bad guy,” she said. “Kids are in your home with the door closed, you’re in the other room, and they have their pajamas on. They think that they are safe, but they’re not. Strangers are just as dangerous online.”

Pitch emphasized that any negative or inappropriate words or images that a student says or posts online, even privately, can be disseminated indefinitely and cause significant harm.

“If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online,” Pitch told the students, leaving them with words of wisdom to guide them in future online endeavors.

Concluding the evening, the Commack and Sherwood PTAs raffled off a pair of Amazon Kindle Fires to two lucky students.