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Clementi Talk At CAPS Annual Spring Luncheon

Ilene Cooper, Dr. Klass also honored for community leadership

Last Thursday, the Roslyn based-Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) held its 27th Annual Spring Luncheon for a large and engaged crowd at The Carltun in East Meadow.

Alane Fagin, MS, CAPS’ executive director, introduced the speakers, all of whom received Community Leadership awards. They included Ilene Cooper, Esq., a partner with Farrell Fritz, P.C. and Perri Klass, MD, an author and professor of journalism at New York University. The main speaker was Joseph Clementi, father of Tyler Clementi, a young gay man who under the stress of a cyberbullying incident, committed suicide at the George Washington Bridge in September 2010.

In his brief, but emotional talk, Clementi noted that during the month his son died, three other Internet-related teen suicides took place in the United States. Calling such deaths, an “epidemic” and a “horror,” Clementi also said they were a “signal for action” and a rallying point for important issues.

Clementi touched on the problem of digital technology, comparing it to automobile usage. The latter, he said, is regulated; young people have to be thoroughly tested before receiving a driver’s license. However, the Internet, he added, tends to promote irresponsible language that can be spread on an enormous scale. At its worst, such abuse amounts to character assassination, he said.

Toward that end, Clementi and his wife, Jane, founded The Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose motto is “Live Equal, Let Live,” and whose hope is that the power of knowledge from a group can be greater than knowledge of the individual. The challenge in a digital age is to promote responsibility in a young person’s personal life and as importantly, in their digital life.

Clementi praised his son as a “kind, loyal human being” who treated life with great gusto. He also praised CAPS for serving as a role model that young people can look to for guidance as he presented the daunting challenges that parents face.

Both Ilene Cooper and Dr. Perri Klass also gave brief talks. Cooper recalled getting involved in child abuse cases following the death of Lisa Steinberg in 1989. Among her many achievements has been drafting legislation that was signed into law by then Gov. George Pataki, one that was designed to protect the interests of abused children.

Even though she spoke before Joseph Clementi, Dr. Klass’s talk seemed like an antidote to what the main speaker had to say. In her talk, Dr. Klass talked about the importance of books, even to toddlers. When a six-month old visits her office, Dr. Klass will “hold out the book” to the child and to the parents, in order to stimulate the youngster, but also to add another dimension to parent-children relationships.

“If the baby loves the book, the baby loves you,” Dr. Klass said. “They love the way you talk when you read the book.”

Children, Dr. Klass added, will follow parents around the house with a book the parent has read from. And so, parents, she said, should use “that voice,” when they both talk to and read to their children.

Another purpose of early childhood reading is to learn new patterns of child rearing, Dr. Klass said.

“[The book] is a tool,” Dr. Klass added. “It enables you [the parent] to do for the child what no one did for you.”

And with the book, parents can “name and explain” the world to their children. Books, further, bring a message about “the power of stories.” This enables parents, Dr. Klass continued, to find their own voice, to tell their own story, to “change the world in your own family.” This, in turn, will also enable children, when they grow up, to tell their own stories, too.

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