Ask any school administrator, teacher, or parent what the top priority is for their school, and they will tell you it’s the students’ safety. This has been the case for as long as schools have been around, but the theories behind how to best accomplish this are evolving at a rapid pace. Staying on top of the latest theories and practices is a necessity for educators and administrators.
Following that thinking, four Lancaster City Schools employees attended the School Justice Partnerships In Diversion Pathways Certificate Program in Washington DC. The purpose of the conference is to find solutions to student mental health, school safety, and crime issues that our students face daily.
“They worked us hard,” said Lancaster High School Principal Scott Burre, “Six straight eight-hour days with quick breaks, and we sometimes worked through lunch.”
Joining Burre were Thomas Ewing Junior High Principal Steve Poston, LHS School Resource Officer Jeff Dixon, and Director of Human Resources Nathan Hale. Also attending were representatives from the Fairfield County courts system: Juvenile Court Judge Terre Vandervoort, prosecutor Genylynn Cosgrove, Director of Assessment and Intervention Becky Edwards, and mental health expert Jennifer Beckley-Watson.
“It was about trying to bring some resources together in a collaborative effort to do what’s best for our kids,” said Poston, “outside community resources, school resources, juvenile court resources, all coming together to try to make Lancaster City Schools a safe place for our students.”
The program focuses on identifying students who show signs of escalating disruptive behavior and using the resources available to prevent the students from getting worse. It is essentially helping students stay in school where they can be surrounded by caring professionals from all over the community.
“It’s a way to identify students that could be heading in that direction and then partnering with the courts to wrap those students in the services they may need,” said Burre.
The conference is the latest in a long list of initiatives Lancaster City Schools has taken to address school safety and student mental health.
“I think the district continues every year to prove that theyre the place to be for school safety,” said Poston, who has recently welcomed a full-time mental health counselor to Thomas Ewing, along with a school resource officer who will split time between the two junior high schools. General Sherman and LHS have both added mental health counselors, as well.
By focusing on mental health alongside security, schools can effectively try to prevent violence from happening instead of just reacting to it.