Identify Troubled Students
You can help prevent future violence and suicides. One high school studied found that 750 of its 2,500 students reported having a substance abuse issue. In that same year, only 10 students were referred for substance abuse intervention, and just five of them connected with a program. Three completed it.
The loud and disruptive kids who are having problems get the attention they need. The quiet kids do not. Schools can take simple, but effective, steps right now to begin identifying troubled students.
Make it everybody’s job
From the lunch person, custodian, bus driver to the teacher, many adults notice small signs. If everyone reported the small signs, the cumulative effect could be one big indicator of a problem. One sign here or there gets overlooked. If you see something that concerns you, document it. Schools will then be able to connect the dots and make sure more students get the help they need. School leadership should make it everyone’s job to report.
Provide a safe way to report
Some people stay silent because they are afraid they will be expected to make a decision about what the behavior means, or they will have to do something about it. Some fear reporting will make them legally accountable. Everyone involved with students needs to understand they are expected only to report what they see, such as changes in behavior or incidents that may cause emotional distress. Schools also need to embed an infrastructure through which concerns can be documented securely as soon as an incident takes place.
Identify community services that can help
Schools may be reluctant to identify troubled students because they do not have the resources to provide them with help. Identify and develop relationships with programs and resources in the community to which students can also be referred. While schools are the place where many troubled students can be identified, it does not necessarily follow that it is solely the school’s responsibility to provide all of the necessary services to those students and their families. If we cannot document and clearly identify the need, it is impossible to get resources in place.
Embed a system for follow-up and monitoring
Once students who are showing signs of academic, behavioral, or emotional risk are identified and referred to appropriate services, a system for follow-up and monitoring needs to be embedded. This will ensure that they actually connect with appropriate mental and physical health services, academic intervention or other family services. Ideally, subsequent monitoring of progress will occur to see if the identified services and interventions are appropriate and producing the intended effects and to make necessary adjustments. After a tragedy, those who knew the perpetrator recall the signs they witnessed such as not speaking to classmates, drug use and bullying.
When people see signs, they should create a way to document that information and get students help before something terrible happens.
By Mariam Azin