What happens to troubled students in DPSCD?
For the past three years, in-school safety concerns took a back seat to implementing health initiatives and district plans to protect students from COVID-19. But as students resume in person learning, school safety issues are emerging and rising to the forefront again as schools and students get back to class.
But this ambiguous return to normality, may also mean heightened anxiety as threats to student safety and the potential for violence in schools and on school campuses, which were temporarily suspended during the world’s largest health issue rear up.
According to Detroit Public Schools Community District, “it is the intention of the District to provide as safe and nonviolent learning environment for its employees, students, parents, and visitors as is possible. To this end, the District strives to maintain an environment free of threats, harassment, intimidation, physical and verbal abuse, and coercion.
“The purpose of the policy is create a safe environment where students are free from any type of harassment. The policy goes on to state it is the staff’s responsibility to, “be educated and aware of potential signs and signals of violent or threatening behavior in students.”
Since the November 2021, mass shooting at Oxford High School outside of Detroit which left four students dead and seven others, including a teacher, injured DPSCDC is taking a holistic approach, making safety a principal concern for school administrators across the district.
Michigan state lawmakers have reenacted a four-year-old safety plan to ensure school buildings have updated security systems, entryways, and door locks continues. Administrators across the state are also installing new inside locks on classroom doors and are working to add intercoms and cameras at school entryways.
In addition, school officials are recognizing violence as a health issue and are enhancing access to mental health counselors and facilities throughout the DPSCD, citing that students may need extra support after trauma and isolation of the pandemic.
Other recommendations include:
- Asking schools to keep lockdown kits on hand. Each kit might include, for example, food, water pouches, a radio, a flashlight, a safety whistle, hand sanitizer, and a bucket that doubles as a portable toilet.
- Improving communication among schools, local law enforcement, and the state’s OK2Say tip line.
- Adding OK2Say contact information on student IDs.
- Providing incentives for people to become school counselors.
- Refining requirements for active-shooter drills.
- Standardizing floor plan maps for schools.
- Adopting common definitions across school districts for terms including “lock down,” “shelter in place,” and “room clear.”
- Requiring ongoing safety training for school resource officers and other school staff.
- Adding a staff member in each district to oversee mental health services, security, and threat assessment.
Detroit is much like other districts nationwide, in that the schools have long offered critical mental health supports for their students. While most school-age youth who need mental health services do not ever receive treatment, nationally, 75 percent of those who do access care receive those services exclusively in their school – a practice which was interrupted by the pandemic.
Despite earnest and sometimes Herculean efforts on the part of school district leaders numerous challenges remain. The bottom line is despite earnest and Herculean efforts on the part of school district and city leaders, and recent improvements to many conditions in Detroit, numerous challenges remain.
A University of Michigan study determined that while educators are often the first to observe students who may be struggling, they typically receive little to no training in recognizing symptoms of unhealthy stress or mental illness. DPSCD staff reported witnessing and experiencing challenging student behaviors, many of which can be manifestations of student trauma exposure, stress, anxiety, or depression.
A key recommendation from that study is that school staff, especially classroom instructional staff, receive training to identify mental health issues in students and set them on a course to address and improve outcomes for mental health awareness and assistance.
A proposal for the 2023 budget entails loan assistance to bring in behavioral health professionals and a day-long treatment program for children in the child welfare system who are facing issues in school and home settings, according to the article.