MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Morris County Prosecutor’s Office hosted members of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) and the Office of the Attorney General on Aug. 25 to introduce its ongoing program aimed at educating students about bias incidents, cyber harassment, and making smart choices about social media.
The MCPO routinely conducts live presentations at public and private schools throughout Morris County to educate students on these important topics, and to talk directly with students. Last school year, the MCPO conducted over a dozen such assemblies in Morris, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties.
In these programs, MCPO Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Samantha DeNegri and Sgt. Patrick LaGuerre firmly stress the importance of exercising good judgement when interacting with their peers and determining what to post online, as how a student conducts themselves today could potentially impact their future. They also explain the significant difference between bias crimes and bias incidents.
Over the summer, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office bolstered its curriculum through the creation of educational video vignettes, which will be incorporated into the program during the 2023-2024 school year.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll explained the program enhancement: “In reviewing different alternatives to best deliver this important message to students, we decided that providing real life video examples of offensive and unacceptable misconduct, using actor/students in school settings, would send a strong message on how a foolish act can quickly escalate and result in very serious consequences.”
The vignettes were made possible with talent from local high school students and director and producer James Calderwood of Calderwood Multimedia LLC.
Present for the meeting were MCPO leaders who met with Deputy Attorney General Yolanda Melville, Senior Council to the Acting Attorney General and Director of Community Engagement; DAG Adedayo Adu, Counsel to Acting Attorney General, Bias Crimes Initiatives; DAG John Nicodemo, Community Outreach & Services Unit; David Leonardis, Training & Community Outreach Liaison for the Office of the Attorney General; DCJ Community Outreach Lt. Joseph Waters; DCJ Sgt. Mechea Medine-Morgan, Specialized Crimes Bureau, Bias Crimes & Sensitive Victims Unit; and DCJ Det. Samer Abboud, Specialized Crimes Bureau, Bias Crimes & Sensitive Victims Unit.
These State and County colleagues all share a desire to cooperatively work together to counter negative and hateful influences on our juveniles in their formative years.
The MCPO’s educational program has expanded beyond Morris County with the goal of reaching students and faculty in all 21 New Jersey counties. For example, last spring, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office held a “Train the Trainer” program to introduce its Anti-Bias/Bullying program to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
“Working with our State colleagues, we hope to expand and unify our programs goals with the those of the State Attorney General’s Office to send a strong message against socially unacceptable conduct,” Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Chief Robert McNally said.
“This robust and newly enhanced program brings face-to-face communication with our students to private and public schools around Morris County, and with the help of our State Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Criminal Justice, we look forward to expanding this anti-hate message further throughout Morris County and to other New Jersey educational institutions. It is critical to address bias with our youth before these bad faith ideals take root. Teenagers today are growing up in a digital world, and our office seeks to enable our students to make smart choices for the sake of their futures. We hope these video vignettes will help us connect with more students,” Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll said.