Youth summit on school violence to be held March 30 in Sioux Falls

Youth summit on school violence to be held March 30 in Sioux Falls High school students and teachers will have the opportunity to participate in a South Dakota Youth Summit on School Violence March 30 at the Oaks Hotel and Convention Center in Sioux Falls.

According to University of South Dakota Professor Bob Wood, a co-director of the summit with Professor Sherry Feinstein of Augustana College, this discussion about school safety comes at a time when it has become a critical issue across the nation.

"In South Dakota, we do have safe schools but we have to ask how do we continue to keep our schools safe. It is a national concern and we wanted to involve high school students in South Dakota in a summit to make them aware of the issues of school violence," said Wood.

Twenty South Dakota high schools will participate � each sending four students and a teacher � in the Youth Summit which is sponsored by The University of South Dakota School of Education, Augustana College Department of Education, South Dakota Center for Law and Civic Education, South Dakota Bar Foundation and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Youth for Justice.

Devin Schwiesow, Vermillion High School, and Ron Flynn, Wakonda High School, are among those who will participate.

South Dakota Attorney General Mark Barnett is a featured speaker at the summit. He will present the keynote talk, titled, "School Violence and Safe Schools," at noon.

The summit will be kicked off by a 10-minute theatrical skit by Julie Pachoud and Charlie Nesdahl of Augustana College, titled, "Taking a Hit: Safe in School?" Then, Professor Martin Brokenleg of Augustana College will present an important talk, entitled "At Our Foundations," beginning at 9 a.m.

During the summit, students and teachers will have the opportunity to participate in three different sessions at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:15 a.m. Those sessions include "Creating Safe School Environments," "No Weapons Allowed," and "All Stressed Out and No Where to Go." A special session for teachers, titled "Planning for a Safe School Environment," will be presented by USD Professor Frank Main.

Another unique aspect of the conference is an afternoon group discussion, entitled "Sharing of What School Districts and Communities are Doing to Create School Environments," led by three South Dakota educators including Phil Breed of Elk Point-Jefferson, Ron Flynn of Wakonda and Sharon Gray of Augustana College.

To prepare for that session, students and teachers from each respective school will have conducted surveys on what schools and communities are doing to create and promote safe school environments. During the group discussion, students and teachers will discuss the surveys in an attempt to generate ideas that can help schools.

Another featured speaker will be Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School Principal Jan Nicolay who will present a talk on "My Thoughts � Your Thoughts" at 2:45 p.m.

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