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How to counter evolving risks to student safety
Mental health, hunger, homelessness, and financial hardship are all threats to student safety, and prudent leaders need to consider them in protecting students, reports Campus Safety.
Alarmingly, one in 30 children in the U.S. experience homelessness, and by age 12, nearly all (83%) have been exposed to at least one serious violent event, the magazine reports. And homeless or not, 67% of surveyed educators said students who are hungry act out in school.
As to the mental health piece, it’s worsened considerably in recent years. Victoria Prooday, a psychotherapist specialized in children and parents, says one in five children has mental health problems today. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen a 43% increase in ADHD, 37% increase in teen depression, and 100% increase in suicides among 10 to 14-year-olds, she says.
What do schools do with all this?
In a recent video by Campus Safety, social workers Katie Koldenhoven and Mary Alex Dill from the Cheyenne Mountain School District (Colorado Springs, Colo.) discuss risk factors and how they’ve worked with school staff to better protect students.
Some highlights: Suicide ideation, anxiety, and financial need are the most common issues Koldenhoven and Dill tackle in student safety.
In countering suicide ideation, Dill says it’s vital to address stress factors before they snowball into suicidal ideation. That entails assessing students to identify red flags early, and helping them manage their own stress and overall mental health.
In terms of financial hardship, it’s important to recognize it’s tough for students to engage and feel part of the school community when they’re struggling at home, she explains.
Anxiety and trauma often mask as behavioral problems, says Koldenhoven. She and Dill work with school staff to (a) recognize that problematic behaviors often communicate an underlying issue, (b) discern the function of that behavior, and (c) mitigate it in the classroom.
The pair advocates trauma-informed school programs and educating all school staff — not just mental health professionals — to discern when a student is struggling and alleviate those pressures to prevent bigger problems down the line.