In case you missed it, three of our W-S/FCS school psychologists – Amy Clay, Abby Flynn and Angela Smith – recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by Michael Bragg with the Winston-Salem Journal. Our Director of Psychological Services, Dr. Corliss Thompson-Drew, also talked with Mr. Bragg. You can access the Journal article here.
We are always pleased to be able to shine a spotlight on the good work being done by our colleagues. Mr. Bragg did a fantastic job investigating what is happening in other comparable school districts across the state, including Guilford and Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Even WE were surprised to learn that W-S/FCS has one of the highest numbers of students per school psychologist. Right now, each of your W-S/FCS School Psychologists is serving about 2,391 students across multiple schools, while the recommended ratio from our National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) is 1 psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. It’s worth noting that the North Carolina average ratio is 1:2,162.
Of course, due to space limitations, not all of the interview discussion made it into Mr. Bragg’s article. So, we decided to go “beyond the article” to share some additional thoughts from these W-S/FCS psychologists with our readers.
- We LOVE our Student Services colleagues. Although social workers, nurses and counselors were not specifically mentioned in this article, they are essential to the success of our students and truly do exceptional work in the W-S/FCS district. There’s a lot of research out there validating that improved mental health functioning yields better academic outcomes. While we’d love to see more psychologists available to our students, we’d be thrilled to see more Student Services personnel overall, so that our team of mental health professionals could focus more on prevention activities (e.g., building resilience, teaching coping skills, individual and group counseling, psychoeducational activities, fostering conflict resolution, etc.).
- Unfortunately, the number of suicide assessments has increased this year in our district. In 2015-2016, we recorded 94 assessments after rolling out a new process. Last year in 2016-2017, we completed 287 suicide assessments. This year, the number of suicide assessments in W-S/FCS has already grown to 327 as of 04/06/2018. We have a process in place for responding to every threat of suicide and we provide annual training to our schools on this important topic.
- School safety is an important topic these days and “hardening” our schools against threats does not address underlying student mental health concerns. Mr. Bragg published an article on the topic of school threats with input from District leadership, which you can access here. Student Services has developed a process for responding to threats that may involve a Level 1 Screening with a plan to address the student’s needs and safety, or a more detailed Level 2 Threat Assessment. Last year, we did 35 Screenings and 11 Level 2 Assessments. As of 04/06/2018, we’ve already completed 57 Threat Screenings and 18 Level 2 Threat Assessments this year in W-S/FCS.
- Social media can make our jobs challenging. We’ve all seen situations where a student has made “a joke” on social media that was taken very seriously by others. Our administrators have to respond accordingly to any perceived threats and what started out as “a joke” can lead to serious consequences. Disciplinary actions and law enforcement involvement can change the course of a student’s life. Parents can help by monitoring their child’s social media activity and talking with their children about the seriousness of making any online comments that could be perceived as threatening in today’s climate. It’s important that ALL of our students understand what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. If you’d like more information on that topic, here’s a great resource.
- Your W-S/FCS Student Services Department is currently providing “Youth Mental Health First Aid” training This 8-hour course is available at no charge to any district employee who is interested in participating. The focus is on early intervention and recognizing warning signs of mental health concerns. You can read more about the course here.