Valley Stream schools take proactive approach to mental health

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Patrice Dobies, the director of special education, said the high school district can connect parents with the right agency if they are having an issue, such as a concern over their child’s behavior.

However, she said, it all starts with a strong support team in the schools. “The adults in all of the buildings are very connected with kids,” Dobies said. “They kind of know if kids need help. It’s a very nice place to be for a kid, especially during this time in their lives.”

Who is at risk?

While some students receive mandated counseling services through their individual education plan, commonly known as an IEP, most do not. However, social workers and psychologists are still there to serve every student in a school.

Teachers are on the front lines. They’re in the classrooms and they interact with children on a daily basis. They are often the first to notice a change in a student’s mood or behavior. Districts have plans in place to make sure those concerns get to the mental health professionals on staff.

Instructional Support Teams are present in just about every school in Valley Stream. These groups meets on a regular basis and consist of a cross-section of staff members including psychologists and social workers. Myers said the ISTs at each school in District 24 are a place where teachers can bring up concerns about a particular student, whether it is academic, behavioral, emotional or social. From there, a plan of action is developed, often with input from the child’s parents.

Instructional Support Teams are also in place at District 30 schools. Teachers there are encouraged to bring up their concerns either at an IST meeting or on a one-on-one basis. “They have full access to go straight to the school psychologist,” Schimpf said.

Susan Nissen, a psychologist in District 13, said staff members do try to identify students who may need extra support, and provide that assistance before it’s too late. “We look for kids who are struggling,” she said, “and try to put interventions in place to give them the tools they need to be socially and emotionally healthy.”
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