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Friday, December 19, 2014
Finding and helping troubled students

In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., many people are concerned about making sure a tragedy like that doesn’t happen in our schools.

It’s not only a matter of limiting access to firearms, but also one of mental health. Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said that the district has measures in place to identify and help at-risk children before they become a danger to themselves and others.

“There are two sides to the coin: one side is preparing kids to do well with one another,” Johnson said. “The other is, can you identify problematic behavior in kids and head off more serious problems? And the answer to that is, I think we can.”

Johnson explained that, if a student is identified to be troubled, the district does a number of things. “One, we provide direct service to the child,” he said. “Two, we get the parents involved. Three, we generally insist on some kind of involvement in therapeutic activities outside of school. And four, if there’s a disability involved, we’re involved on a counseling basis as well as an instructional basis. So we can modify the whole environment in which we’re provided instruction.”

Every school in Rockville Centre has at least one social worker and psychologist (South Side High School has two psychologists). The middle and high schools also have guidance counselors. While they all serve different functions in the school, they all work together to help students.

“Not only do we have social workers assigned to every school and psychologists assigned to every school to implement programs like [character education],” said Noreen Leahy, the assistant superintendent for special education and pupil services, “but they’re also there to observe students and kind of be the first line of defense in case we identify a developing emotional or psychological problem or deficiency.”

The guidance counselors, social workers and guidance counselors all help the students in different ways. The primary responsibility of guidance counselors, Leahy said, is to make sure students have all the necessary credentials to graduate high school and move on to post-school life, whether it be college, work or the military.

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