By MICHAEL P. McKINNEY; Journal Staff Writer
She was barely out of high school when she was killed in 2001. Now a program works to help others avoid a similar tragedy.
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BARRINGTON – Candles glowed as Larry Brown stepped to the microphone on what would have been his daughter’s 26th birthday. He and others gathered last night to commemorate a domestic violence prevention program in Katie’s name that is now taught in 14 school districts.
But it was impossible, on a day when candles have held another meaning, for a father not to speak of Katie. The way she’d shop for gifts for family, be it Christmas, Columbus Day or Halloween. The way she’d have disliked the rain falling outside — after having been born in sunny California.
“I’m not sure that she came to really understand — or that any teenager can understand — how transient [gifts bought for some special occasion] are,” Brown said to about 45 people who attended at Barrington Town Hall. What really lasts, he said, are the feelings people have for each other, the gift of love.
Katherine E. “Katie” Brown, 20, was murdered in 2001 by Ronald Posner, who was 21 at the time. The two had dated since high school. Posner was sentenced to 60 years, 40 of them to serve in prison. Brown and Posner had both lived in Barrington, with Brown living on Providence’s East Side at the time of her death.
“Domestic abuse in the most extreme,” Superior Court Judge William A. Dimitri Jr. called it at Posner’s sentencing.
In 2001, the Katie Brown Educational Program was launched, in part to give young people skills to prevent violence in their relationships and also to illuminate warning signs people might otherwise miss. Instructors go into classrooms in fifth grade through high schools in a five-session program. The roster recently added East Greenwich and Pawtucket in Rhode Island and includes Fall River and Somerset in Massachusetts.
“We are approaching 20,000 students,” said Dr. Jay S. Schachne, a cardiologist who founded the Katie Brown program. “We’re going to keep this going.”
There are varied troubles to contend with: from school bullying to children who witness a mother being abused, to the 40 percent of high school students who report being victims of dating violence at least once before graduating, according to figures from the Katie Brown program. But in the years since Katie Brown’s death, attendees heard last night, the Internet, MySpace and other technology have become an enormous new source of relationship violence among young people. Organizers of the Katie Brown Educational Program brought in a panel of speakers.
There are adults who hide behind deceptive computer user names, often pretending to be younger than they are and sometimes of a different sex, to try to lure unsuspecting young people into sexual situations. There’s cyber bullying, which includes students who use the computer to spread sensitive information, images or lies about a classmate or a teacher — and also sending hurtful messages to a child through the computer.
Cpl. John Killian, a Rhode Island State Police detective, showed the audience a video featuring the parents of a Vermont boy who committed suicide after being taunted by computer messages from classmates.
Killian and others suggested that parents keep computers in a family-used room and not leave it alone in a child’s room. Also, there is at least some software available through some Internet service providers that can help parents keep track of their child’s Internet activity.
“It’s a reality” that young people are using MySpace, which has some 60 million people using it, Killian said.
Kaitlyn Annunziata, a Barrington High School senior, spoke of a scare when a stranger attempted to make contact through her MySpace site. The person quickly began asking personal and inappropriate questions, she said, and so she told her mother who contacted the police.
“Just to go through that whole experience was very uncomfortable,” said Kaitlyn.
But for the police, trying to pursue someone who tries to solicit someone online can sometimes prove difficult. Barrington Detective Josh Birrell explained that it’s important for people to use the “print save” function on a computer to capture a message and other important information, including instant messaging text in order for authorities to better track down its source.
[email protected] / (401) 277-7447
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Dr. Maryanne Norris, left, joins about 10 others who held candles during a memorial service for Katie Brown, of
Barrington, who was killed in 2001.
THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / BOB THAYER
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