OU Inaugurates Safe Schools Yeshiva Network Policy

10 Sep 2008

The key word is “proactive,” with participating schools determined to be on the cutting edge of prevention. The policy includes guidelines for incorporation into current school procedures where they already exist, or may be utilized as stand-alone documents in schools that have not previously formulated a formal response.

The Safe Schools Policy was created as a collaborative effort of the Orthodox Union, F•E•G•S Health and Human Services System, the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, and the Yeshiva Counseling Network, with input from many principals and mental health professionals serving yeshivot.

The policy is part of the OU’s larger initiative, “Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools,” which seeks to deal with challenges in all three venues.

Participating schools in the Safe Schools Yeshiva Network (SSYN) to date include:

New York City:
• Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy High School, Manhattan
• Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls, Holliswood, Queens
• SAR High School, Riverdale
Long Island:
• Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High for Boys, Woodmere
• Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, Uniondale
• Machon HaTorah (Rambam and HAFTR), Lawrence
• SKA Yeshiva High School for Girls, Hewlett
• Westchester Hebrew High School, Mamaroneck
• The Frisch School, Paramus
• J.E.C. Rabbi Teitz Mesivta Academy, Elizabeth
• Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Teaneck
• Torah Academy of Bergen County, Teaneck
• Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School, South River
• Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Livingston

Guidance counselors, school psychologists, and other mental health professionals have participated in professional development workshops of the Safe Schools Yeshiva Network during the past academic year and will continue their participation “for the physical, emotional, social and spiritual benefits of their students,” explained Frank Buchweitz, Orthodox Union National Director of Community Services and Special Projects, who played a central role in coordinating the cooperative effort.

SSYN schools provide “prevention education for students and parents and endeavor to enhance students’ growth in the vital areas of healthy communication, stress management and decision-making skills. Parents, teachers, and school leadership working together in the best interests of children and community help safeguard their lives and futures,” Frank Buchweitz said.

“The Safe Schools initiative is committed to the well-being and safety of every student in the school, the home, and outside environments,” he declared. “Participating schools have recognized the importance of joining this communal effort and of promoting a unified response, and look forward to additional schools joining in this initiative.”

Jonas Waizer, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer of the F●E●G●S Health and Human Services System declared, “The Orthodox Union brought together many parties in this collaborative effort, working together to strengthen our schools, teachers, and parents in fighting the influences that lead to abuses in the first place, and to intervene quickly if a need is seen.”

Policy suggestions include a host of directives for responsible action by parents, including supervision of parties in homes; calling host parents to ensure that supervision take place; not permitting alcoholic beverages (including beer) or illegal substances to be brought in or served in the home; notifying parents if a teen arrives inebriated, forbidding entry, and calling parents to pick up the teen immediately.

The policy has been initially launched in the New York Metropolitan area but is replicable elsewhere, Frank Buchweitz emphasized. “Intensive research has resulted in a policy which can appeal to all sectors of the Jewish community. Yeshivot and day schools throughout the country are encouraged to adapt this Safe Schools policy.”

To receive a copy of the policy, or further information, contact the Orthodox Union at 212-613-8188, or frank@ou.org.