Catholic schools take great strides to keep children safe

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As a Catholic School principal, with more than 37 years of experience as an educator and administrator, spanning both public and most recently Catholic Schools, I would like to offer my overwhelming support to the diocesan proactive approach in keeping the thousands of children enrolled in their educational facilities safe. The diocese appreciates that many families entrust their children’s education to them and take great strides to keep these children safe. Allow me to elaborate on the many policies that Catholic Schools are required to follow.

In my role as principal of the school, I am expected to ensure the safety and security of the faculty, staff and students at St. Cecilia School in Pawtucket. I am required to follow the policies established by the Diocese of Providence for the protection of children. The first requirement in accordance with the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island and the 2002 NORMS promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, each parish, school or agency within the Diocese of Providence must have on file documentation for every adult working or volunteering in a child-contact position and demonstrate they are in full compliance. Every adult over 18 who has regular contact with children must have a BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) background check. Any paid employee in any school must also have a Triple I background check in addition to the BCI background check. This is a national background check that includes fingerprinting. Employees must also sign the Code of Ethical conduct every year.

Adults must also participate in the Safe Environment Training provided through the Diocese of Providence. This program assists the adults in identifying signs of abuse and where to make a report of abuse. New and established staff and volunteers who have regular contact with children through diocesan schools or youth programs receive essential information pertaining to the awareness, prevention and reporting of child abuse as part of their orientation process. In addition, all diocesan employees and new personnel participate in a program of training. The initial educational requirement for all diocesan personnel is a review of the entire training curriculum during the first year and a renewal every three years. Those receiving training include: all priests, deacons and members of religious communities who have regular contact with children through parish programs and diocesan youth activities. Further included in this training are all principals, assistant principals, teachers, guidance counselors, staff, office personnel and volunteers in diocesan elementary, middle and high schools. The diocese requires the same training for all directors, catechists and staff of religious education programs — all youth ministers, coordinators of youth activities, athletic coaches and others who are involved with youth in a similar capacity — and all diocesan personnel who provide child care services.

The children who are enrolled in the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Providence participate in the Circle of Grace Safe Environment Training. This program teaches a culture of respect and faith that goes beyond mere protection. This program helps children and young people understand their own sacredness, the sacredness of others, and how to seek help through their relationships with trusted adults. Through the Circle of Grace Program, adults assist children and youth to recognize God’s love by understanding that each of us lives and moves within a Circle of Grace. This holistic concept allows children and youth to identify uncomfortable situations long before any problems occur. It is the recognition that God is with us always and is there to help us in difficult situations.

There are many programs in place to provide the protection of children. Children are a gift from the Lord and our goal through our Catholic schools is to provide children with an on-going formation in their faith and to develop each students’ God-given gifts.

Mary E. Tetzner, M.Ed., serves as the principal of St. Cecilia’s School, Pawtucket