GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — After two incidents at township schools that required police action this month, Councilman Frank Santo is introducing a social media campaign to incentivize students in the township to make their schools safer by combating loneliness in their peers.
Santo, who is also fifth-grade teacher at Reeds Road Elementary, announced the United Safety Challenge at the Township Council meeting Tuesday night, urging students to make a new friend for a chance to win dinner with himself and Mayor Anthony J. Coppola Jr.
“A recent study said that 70 percent of students reported feeling lonely at some point during the school year,” he said. “One in five suffer from a persistent disconnect. History has shown that this is the type of situation that can put our school safety at risk.
“No student should feel that way.”
He said police and school administrators recently diffused two potentially dangerous situations. After the meeting, he confirmed the two incidents he was referring to were the March 1 lockdown at Pilgrim Academy, followed by a minor incident at the middle school this week that was deemed to not be a threat.
To participate in the challenge, students must make a new friend.
“I want you to reach out to somebody that you don’t know,” he said, addressing the GTV audience. “Maybe this is someone of a different race or a different religion or simply someone with different interests. This small act of unity can make us safer.”
Then, with parental permission, they must share their experience on his Facebook page.
At the end of the month, a small committee will choose the top three entries, Santo said. Those stories will then be posted and put to a public vote to decide the winner. The winners will be invited with their parents to meet Coppola and then go to dinner at Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light Tavern in Historic Smithville on the mayor’s dime.
“When it comes to the safety of our kids, we can’t do enough,” Coppola said. “We have had a couple little scary situations in Galloway, and certainly with the events that have been happening across the nation and in Florida, you can never be too careful.”