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School Officer Guided By Compassion

For 18 years, Rep. Larry Cafero (R-142nd District) has made a name for himself in Hartford as one of the state's leading Republicans. At the same time, he's worked to keep troubled youth in Norwalk from losing their futures as the city's Expulsion Enforcement Officer.

When a student faces removal from the public school system, his or her fate is in Cafero's hands. "I try to use that position as a teaching role and not just hand out 'You're in school, you're out of school' decisions," he said over a cup of coffee.

According to Cafero, the disciplinary system offers little room for negotiation. The officer's job is to determine if the student can remain in school. The decision falls, by the books, along yes or no lines. Cafero likes to read between the lines when he can.

Sitting at Penny's Diner, he runs through memories of kids he tried to help. One stabbed his father in the hand over a family dispute. Cafero sat them down to try and talk through the issue. In another incident, a couple of boys caught vandalizing a Jewish cemetery had to watch "Schindler's List," write papers about what they did and attend a High Holy Days service at a synagogue where they apologized to the congregation. Cafero leaned across the dinner table and asked, "Do you know how hard that is, to look someone in the eye and admit to them what you did? Those boys would have rather died."

But even in the midst of the frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking public school issues, Cafero finds plenty to make him smile. He remembers a holiday concert that included 300 students. On stage they were all dressed the same, but Cafero could still see the diversity of race, creed and even economic status represented on that stage. "That's Norwalk; they were all singing in harmony and making beautiful music together."

Cafero is now running for his 10th term in the state legislature. His campaign information can be found at http://joincafero.com.

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