Florence One Schools superintendent to speak next week before Congress
FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley has been selected to speak Tuesday on a panel before Congress about school safety and technology.
The National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) invited O’Malley to take part in the School Safety and Technology: How School Administrators, Psychologists and Counselors Use Technology to Keep Students Safe Capitol Hill briefing in Washington D.C.
“So, I think it’s a pretty big honor to be recognized as the only superintendent to go on behalf a district,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley said he came here to put Florence One Schools on the map as a premiere district, and this will play a part in doing so.
The briefing will discuss how school administrators and mental health professionals use technology, such as counseling websites, diagnostic tests and email screening, to identify and treat at-risk students for mental health issues and to prevent self-harm, bullying and school violence, according to the invitation O’Malley received from NCTET.
NCTET Executive Director Jon Bernstein said O’Malley would provide an important perspective to how technology can help keep schools and children safe.
O’Malley said he will speak about the way Edison Public Schools, his previous school district in New Jersey, approached security. The district combined technology use, security measures and mental health support to help efficiently make the district safer without making the schools look like prisons.
In Edison Public Schools, O’Malley said they enlisted crisis counselors from the Rutgers University Mental Health Division to work in all levels of schools and contracted a company named Gaggle to monitor what children were doing on their school computers in addition to having basic security measures within the schools. Gaggle monitors children’s computer usage, and in the case of a student’s computer activity reflecting self-harm, the company will call a senior administrator or local authorities if needed.
Through the use of Gaggle, O’Malley said the district was able to save children’s lives from self-harm and suicide. He also said they were able to prevent bullying within the school through the program.
“These were ways we were trying to address the mental health issue without spending a lot of money on security,” O’Malley said. “It was about getting to our kids and having better conversations with our kids.”
O’Malley said he plans to use some of the security measures implemented at Edison Public Schools in Florence One Schools because they are inexpensive and effective.
“I definitely believe as we move forward, we’ll be able to implement some of those things,” O’Malley said. “Obviously, Florence One is a little bit different in its facilities and structures. So, we’ll have to change it a little bit, but the philosophy of keeping people safe in an efficient, correct manner that doesn’t cost a lot of money is what we’re trying to get at.”