Domestic violence agency offers advocacy at RC schools

Justin Wood withdraws from school board election

Rush City schools has learned it has the support of a local domestic violence organization that is willing to lend a helping hand to students, families and the staff at school.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Rush City School Board Sept. 19 listened to a presentation on the domestic violence and sexual assault resources available through The Refuge Network in Chisago, Isanti and Kanabec counties. Kim Houle, the agency’s community advocacy supervisor, specifically talked about what The Refuge can provide the school community.

No formal action was taken by the board.

Since 1986, The Refuge Network has aimed to help bring an end to domestic violence by providing supportive services for people who are currently involved or have been involved in an abusive relationship. A multi-community organization, it has assisted countless victims, including some men, while its Black Dog Shelter has brought safety to more than 600 women and children since the shelter was opened in 2009.

The Refuge also has paid attention to the abuser’s perspective, as attempts to figure out why some men choose domestic violence have been made through discussions at men’s groups at the Rush City prison. Meantime, sexual assault support groups are starting to surface throughout Chisago County.

Houle, in her presentation to the school board, focused on outreach and the positive impact it can have on students and staff at school.

“We have community advocates who help women with various issues, such as legal orders,” she said. “We have a youth advocate who can help kids at school. We’re trying to reach inside local school districts.”

Houle identified Refuge staffer Jessica Sterbentz, who was unable to attend the meeting, as the youth advocate designated for Rush City schools. She can do presentations, trainings and other educational activities as needed, she said.

Breaking it down further, Houle said the approach would be a proactive one in helping to educate especially teenagers on issues such as dating violence at the high school level.

“Our youth advocate will hopefully reach school districts and be there for any help that is needed,” Houle added. “The Rush City community is tremendous. We want to educate these kids on what to do in different situations, how to avoid situations (while) addressing healthy and non-healthy relationships. We can show them the signs of what abuse is and what to do.”

Noting 13 to 18-year-olds tend to be a highly victimized age group, Houle said The Refuge could further assist with setting up guest speakers and helping out the existing counselors on staff at school.

“We could do training for teachers, show what our domestic violence program offers,” she explained.

Wood withdraws from election

Justin Wood, who was appointed to the school board earlier this year due to Channa Tastsides’ resignation, announced this week that he is withdrawing from the school board election in November.

He cited a conflict with his regular, fulltime job as the reason, though he did affirm he would like to run for school board in the future. However, due to the timing involved with the election process, voters may still see Wood’s name on the voting ballot.

Otherwise, voters will find Matt Perreault, Teri Umbreit, Brian Anderson, Scott Anderson and three write-in spaces on the ballot; voters may select up to three for terms of four years each.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, and the polling place at Rush City High School will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

In other news, the board:

• Approved the proposed 2014 property tax levy, reflecting an increase of 3.28 percent over 2013. Business manager Laureen Frost informed the board that the levy had decreased 5.16 percent and 8.08 percent the last two years. Board members will act on the final levy and budget, along with hearing any public feedback on the issue, at the Dec. 19 board meeting.

• Submitted names of parents and community members who may be interested in serving on the School Board Advisory Committee for the 2013-14 school year.

• Received a brief summary of how students did on the spring 2013 MCA and MAP tests, as presented by Superintendent Vern Koepp.


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