Finding and helping troubled students
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Social workers focus on the social and emotional well-being of the students, as well as physical needs that may arise, such as homelessness and lack of nutrition.
“The psychologist’s primary responsibility is to be somewhat of a psychometric statistician for us,” said Leahy. “They do the testing for special education, they will write up the reports of that testing, they’ll meet with parents and conduct meetings to make sure the special education programs are being implemented and run properly.”
All three have a counseling component to their job. “The social workers tend to do more of the psychological counseling, but that’s not to say the guidance counselors and psychologists don’t do that as well,” said Leahy.
Johnson said that guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists are also all trained to know the signs of dangerous and troubled behavior in students. “The one that crops up more frequently than anything is kids that are suicidal or become suicidal because they are victims and are just silently kind of walking through the world,” said Johnson. “And I know we’ve been successful in getting kids into hospitals, into all kinds of therapeutic situations outside of school and have probably saved some lives.”
The district also has measures in place, Johnson said, in the event that a student is identified to be a threat to others.
“The special education system is built so we can find an appropriate setting for these kids in case this is found to not be an appropriate setting for them,” said Johnson. “It’s my obligation to education kids, but not necessarily at South Side. So we can, working with families, put kids on home instruction. We can put them in therapeutic settings. We can provide educational services when they are in hospital settings. We do a lot to encourage and support families when it’s recognized they have a real problem.”
There’s only so much the school district can do, though. Leahy said that problems sometimes arise when students leave the structure of school. Also, some psychoses present themselves in early adulthood.