Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) Assistant Commissioner Victor Somme III will be a featured panelist at the National Town Hall on School Safety on July 28 during the National School Safety Conference and Exposition, July 26-30, in New Orleans.
Somme was tapped for the prestigious opportunity by conference organizers because of his experience as the former director of the St. Croix Alternative Education Program and his current role developing local school safety policy.
Somme will lead a delegation of 11 school and district officials, teachers and school monitors from across the territory to the week-long conference, which more than 700 conference goers and 65 exhibitors are expected to attend.
As part of his presentation, Somme will highlight the extensive measures the VIDE has taken to ensure the safety and security of schools during the pandemic, as well as address changing social climates on V.I. public school campuses, particularly around the topic of gender identity.
“School security in the age of COVID-19 and the emergence of transgender students at V.I. public-schools are important discussions in which the VIDE is engaged,” he said.
“How do school monitors deal with a school fight if a student is suspected to have COVID-19? How do they safely do their jobs in this environment? How should schools handle student gender-identity matters? Our school safety staff, teachers and administrators need to be properly trained around these topics that could potentially lead to conflict,” said Somme.
The assistant commissioner went on to say that his hope is to bring greater professionalism to the roles of school security employees.
“When schools open, we want to begin providing more training to school monitors than what is currently offered by the VIPD,” he said. “Our monitors are trained in strategies for restraining students but know very little about mental health or substance abuse issues and strategies. Monitors need to be more than security — they need to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and mental illness in our student populations.”
The conference will offer the group a wide selection of workshops on active shooters, emergency preparedness, mental health, social media and more.
“The V.I. Department of Education is leading in many areas, and this leadership and our accomplishments are being recognized at national education levels,” Somme said. “We are very proud of the transformative work taking place at the VIDE and look forward to continuing it on behalf of our students.”