Two days ago we had another grim reminder that schools, like communities, are vulnerable to troubled individuals, often young people, possessing weapons. These events strike fear in the hearts and minds of parents and add fuel to the fire when it comes to the gun debate.
While the gun debate goes on…. Most people agree we need better mental health services.
One of the best places to start providing such services is the local public school district. Good school systems employ school psychologists, social workers, certified special education teachers, guidance counselors, and staffing specialists (to pull everyone together). They also have easy access to outside help if necessary.
For years public schools offered resource classes, some good, others not so good, to students with emotional and/or behavioral disabilities. Some still do provide such classes, but the recent push has been to put students with such disabilities into the regular classroom—called inclusion.
Many troubled students, even if they are assessed by a school psychologist, or an outside therapist, are given an individual plan, only to be lost in a huge oversized class. The likelihood of class disruptions makes general teaching a difficult proposition. Not only does it hamper the progress of other students—it can make the classroom dangerous.
Even if students aren’t outwardly disruptive, they might harbor deep conflict. For years conflicted students might move along, from grade to grade, without a sufficient psychological support system. Parents are often caught up in a whirlwind race to find services on their own, knowing their child is a living powder-keg.
Public schools, for a long time now, have been hesitant to place those with emotional and/or behavioral problems in separate classes. Often, in the past, those classes were dumping grounds without appropriate backing or support. But they don’t have to be that way.
Administrators and support staff in school districts, instead of incessantly focusing on testing and school achievement, should build superior special education classes with well-qualified professionals. These classes should be well-connected to regular classes and school, providing way back for the troubled student upon improvement.
It would seem this would be something we could all agree on.