A retired police officer, who writes a column about police work for The Coaster has won an award from the nationwide Autism Parenting Magazine for being one of the top 15 contributors to the magazine in 2016.
Joseph Pangaro, who now works as director of safety and security for a large school district in Monmouth County, said he was honored and appreciative of the opportunity given to him by The Coaster. He began writing his column while still employed as an Ocean Township police officer and continued after his retirement several years ago.
Pangaro started writing his column in 2009 and said many of his columns have been picked up by NJ Blue Now, a law enforcement magazine, which also honored him with the “most relevant article” award in 2013.
Pangaro said that article, about bullying in schools and how police can help alleviate and stop it, was also picked up by Connecticut Blue Now, the law enforcement magazine in that state.
Although he doesn’t have a child on the Autism Spectrum himself, Pangaro said those children and parents have a special place in his heart.
“Those kids are near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Pangaro said shortly after he began is job at the school district, the district began to overhaul its policies regarding the special needs population.
“And I started to interact with them,” he said.
The idea for his newest winning article began with an article he co-wrote with Gerry Turning, former Police Chief in Tinton Falls and current mayor there.
They collaborated on an article about parenting autistic teenagers and preparing them for the legal consequences of their actions.
Pangaro said he proposed that article because while working in his current job some teenagers began passing around inappropriate pictures they had taken, including to students with special needs.
Pangaro said there could be legal consequences that teenagers on the spectrum and their parents may not have even considered. He said the article, after it was published, drew extensive response from parents everywhere.
“I got hundreds of hits from all over the country. They were thrilled to have the information,” he said.
He is currently researching his next article about the effects of safety drills on special needs students.
The idea for that article came from a seminar he gave at the New Jersey Education Association’s convention in Atlantic City in November.
The topic was safety drills and Pangaro said when a teacher expressed her opinion that special needs students shouldn’t have to participate because it was too stressful for them, a heated discussion took place.
“Of course I think all kids should have to participate. So I’m researching now how all kids can be included” he said.