New program credited with big decrease in serious safety incidents district wide

CLEVELAND - Serious safety incidents at Cleveland Metropolitan schools are down dramatically since the district implemented a program to address student feelings and emotions.

"We want to touch the human side of each child," said Damond Loretz, principal at Garfield School on Cleveland's west side.

The program is called "Human Ware," and it gives students Kindergarten through 5th grade district-wide an opportunity to verbalize their feelings and learn about social and behavioral development through a classroom-based curriculum.

"Human Ware" was implemented five years ago after a student, Asa Coon, opened fire at Cleveland's Success Tech High School, wounding two teachers and two students. Coon was shot and killed by police.

"I've seen more friendships occur, more intermingling across the cultures and religions," added Loretz.

According to Spokeswoman Roseann Canfora, the District has experienced a 42 percent drop in negative behavior, threats and physical and verbal violence across the district. This year alone, Canfora said there's been a 10 percent drop in such incidents.

"I see them trying to be more encouraging to each other, more thoughtful to each other," said Julie Reffner, a second-grade teacher at Garfield who teaches components of the "Human Ware" program to her students regularly.

"Human Ware" encompasses a variety of lesson plans that teach children to give compliments to one another, take a stand against bullying and express their emotions.

"We've noticed that with the compliments given, a lot of the bullying issues kind of dwindled," added Loretz.

"I'm happy about it [the program]," said six year old Benicia Cosme, a first grader at Garfield. Cosme expressed in class that she was excited today after performing in a school program earlier.

As part of the program, schools now have "planning centers" which replace in-school suspension. Parents and teachers may refer students to the planning center or students may refer themselves. Their time is spent in a dedicated classroom completing school work as well as discussing their behavior and the root of the issue at hand.

The district plans to roll out "Human Ware" to sixth through eighth graders next year. The program will also receive a $195,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation in light of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn.

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