HomeMarlton NewsSchool district partners with police for inclusive event

School district partners with police for inclusive event

March 24 event promotes awareness of the disabled community

The Evesham school district’s Special Services Department is partnering with township police to host an All In Disabilities Awareness Night on Thursday, March 24.

The special services branch of the district originally reached out to police to help make people aware of individuals with disabilities. Police Lt. Jason Siitonen explained that his department became involved after discussions with the school district.

“Last year, the school had met with Capt. (Walter) Miller and myself to discuss ways to improve our relations between our disabled community, the schools and the police department,” he said. 

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“(Disabled individuals) are traditionally underrepresented in towns, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to come out and just feel as much a part of our community as everything else we do.”

Marnee Morris, supervisor of special services for the district, elaborated on a specific request from a parent regarding how police departments handle situations with children on the autism spectrum, an entreaty that evolved to include all individuals with disabilities.

“In response to a letter received from a parent highlighting the challenges currently facing police departments with respect to understanding how differently individuals on the autism spectrum behave and engage, especially when they’re scared,” Morris noted.

“In this meeting, our dialogue immediately shifted from a focus on one disability to a more inclusive focus on awareness of disabilities.”

The All In Disabilities Awareness Night will have about 20 tables occupied by representatives and groups from the township, including the Human Rights Council, disabled veterans and relevant vendors. There will also be food and a special appearance by Junior Miss New Jersey winner Bryanna Pasternak. 

Siitonen said the police department wants to create a more inclusive environment and let disabled residents know they are considered an essential part of the township.

“We want to let our disabled community know that they’re not forgotten, and that they’re an important part of our school and communities,” he added.

Morris emphasized that  community support is key to embracing an inclusive town. 

“Community support for this event reinforces the idea that, in Evesham and other surrounding towns, all people are welcome, cared for, and accepted as community members who add value to our neighborhoods,” she said.

Hours for the All In Disabilities Awareness Night are 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the municipal complex,  on 984 Tuckerton Road. Rain date will be Thursday, March 31.

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