Column – Keeping children safe

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Safety was the topic in 1994 and ’95. In February of ’94, local law enforcement and the DMV teamed up to help reduce toddler death and injury with car seat inspections. DMV had collected almost 700 unsafe child safety seats because of missing or broken pieces.

In March, a report came out detailing school violence and weapons. In ’94, Suffolk used specially-trained dogs, random searches, and metal detectors, to name just a few solutions. Other Hampton Roads municipalities that were originally skeptical of Suffolk’s ideas later began to adopt the same strategies. “I’m not surprised the numbers are so low because of our stringent enforcement policy,” said Milton Liverman, Suffolk coordinator of pupil personnel and testing. “We try to stay on top of things and follow up all leads to keep violence out of the schools.” State officials agree that combating violence is crucial to improving the educational standards of Virginia’s schools. “Schools have to be free of violence and potential harm,” said Dr. William C. Bosher Jr., Superintendent of Public Instruction for Virginia. “If the students and staff do not feel safe, then English, mathematics, science and social studies do not matter.” 

Just as in the schools, children need to be safe while playing. In April of ’94, in a step to alleviate heightened concern over lead contamination in playgrounds throughout Hampton Roads, Suffolk conducted random tests as an assurance. “We are certainly pleased to report to the community that our equipment — to the best of our knowledge — is lead-free,” said City Parks and Recreation Director Dinesh Tiwari. 

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Changes in laws and regulations resulted in several big changes in schools. Several modifications will come about as a result of laws passed by the 1994 General Assembly, including smaller class sizes in grades K-3; an expansion of the state’s anti-smoking law in schools, and the introduction of student-initiated prayer. School meals changed thanks to new standards by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Suffolk also began implementing a new technology program that put computers in every elementary school In the city. Council approved the transfer of $225,000 to install 10 CD-ROM computers and software in each of the 10 elementary schools.

As children returned to school, an elementary school organized an event for kindergarten student’s moms. “After the Kilby Shores mothers drop off their kindergartners, they have been invited by the school business partner, McDonald’s on Route 58, to attend what is being called a ‘Boo-Hoo’ party. McDonald’s will have some coffee and Danish ready for our mothers after they drop off their children so that they can commiserate with one another.”

Another change in the Suffolk schools in ’94 was for the first time a police officer, Det. Andre Weaver began patrolling the hallways of Nansemond River High School. 

The following year, in September of ’95, a new preschool Early Start program began at Mt. Zion and Booker T. Washington elementary schools. Sixty children were enrolled in this new 4-year-old preschool agenda. The students attended class in mobile units at the schools. Also new for the ’95 school year was the block scheduling concept that began at both Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools. The 90-minute classes were implemented for the purpose of more time for hands-on application of textbook theory. 

In October of 1995, in what would go down in history as the largest gathering of Black men in Washington, D.C., the Million Man March, over 800,000 gathered in the Nation’s capital. Suffolk was well represented, having sent several busloads of participants.

As 1995 drew to a close in December, cable TV viewers got an unwelcome surprise. “The intrusion of an X-rated movie channel into the homes of several Falcon Cable subscribers in Suffolk is sending out a bad signal. Known as the “Spice” channel, subscribers who want to see it pay an extra monthly cost. But according to a Holland area resident who did not wish to be named, the channel came in loud and clear for most of the day Saturday and much of Monday, without any invitation from her.”