The Total Child

Redefining Ready! Reflections from 2018 Superintendent of the Year

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest Post by David R. Schuler, Ph.D., Superintendent, High School District 214 (Ill.)

It has been amazing to serve as the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year. This award has not been about me or my career. It is truly a reflection of the outstanding teachers, students, and staff of High School District 214, where I have served as superintendent for the last 14 years of the 19 that I have been a public school superintendent. I absolutely love leading this District and working to influence the national dialogue about public education.

I have appreciated the opportunity this year to reflect on what it means to be the leader of not only a district but of a movement of educators across this country who are striving to redefine what it means to be ready for college, career, and life beyond high school.

More than 60 districts across the nation have joined the Redefining Ready! cohort and hundreds of educators attended the inaugural Redefining Ready! National Summit where we shared best practices and ideas to inspire innovation within our respective districts. Superintendents and districts across this country are engaging in the work to redefine and redesign the educational experience for thousands of students.

As part of our Redefining Ready! work, I am continually inspired by the stories of our students and graduates in High School District 214. Each day I hear of stories such as Zach Burke. Zach, a Prospect High School graduate, took a computer science course his freshman year that led to a passion for coding and a top award in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge. He presented his app – designed in one of our classrooms – to national tech leaders in Washington, D.C.

At Buffalo Grove High School, Jackie Molloy and Nicole Relias took courses in the business management pathway and now co-run a startup selling their product, Skunk Aid, on Amazon and in stores across Chicago. How cool is that?

An internship at a physical therapist’s office affirmed recent Wheeling High School graduate Hannah DeGraff’s decision to pursue a career in the field and provided her a behind-the-scenes look at running a healthcare business.

Rolling Meadows graduates Miranda Adelman and Raymond Liu completed courses in the visual arts pathway and interned at Harper College, while Elk Grove’s Oscar Gonzalez worked with high-tech tools in the classroom and earned an industry-level safety certification verifying his qualifications in the field.

At Hersey, Kayleigh Padar's introductory course in journalism led to a role as editor-in-chief of the school's paper and an internship writing bylined articles for the Daily Herald, our local newspaper. And Brandon Sobecki, a Vanguard graduate, spent half of his day interning in a veterinarian’s office while simultaneously earning 21 college credits through our Early College Center.

Our students are saving money in college and shortening the time to graduation by enrolling in dual credit and Advanced Placement coursework.

Tanya Sarkis, a Wheeling High School graduate now a freshman at DePaul University, took four dual credit courses during her senior year that allowed her to save about $11,000 in college tuition.

And Ivan Najera, who never planned to pursue college, participated in our Early College Center where he earned 28 transferable hours of college credit through Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy classes. Ivan is wrapping up his first semester at our local community college and will soon transfer to a four-year university to earn his bachelor’s degree.

These are just a few of the countless success stories that our staff have provided for our 12,000 students. Our students can only dream what they can see and we must provide engaging, rigorous, and relevant experiences on their educational journey.

Students today are entering a workforce where they will have multiple careers during their lifetime. We must move from focusing on motivation and inspiration, to aspiration. We must empower our students to aspire, dream big and discover their future.

National Suicide Prevention Month

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. As the Child Mind Institute states "through honest conversation and by providing kids who need it with help, we can prevent suicides and save lives. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues."

Below is a resource library on suicide prevention and mental health for students.

Resource Library


The Most Common Misdiagnoses in Children

(National Awareness) Permanent link

This article from is reprinted with the permission of the Child Mind Institute. It is by Linda Spiro, PsyD, who is a clinical psychologist.  

When you have a headache, you know there are many possible causes, ranging from the mild to the very serious. When you see your doctor, she will likely ask you detailed questions about how long the headaches have been taking place, what type of pain you are feeling, when they occur, and what other symptoms you’re experiencing. Without a thorough assessment and examination, it would be absurd for your doctor to diagnose you with a brain tumor or the flu, both of which can give you a headache. And, of course, the treatment for a brain tumor and a virus would look very different.

The same thing is true of mental illness: many common symptoms occur for a variety of reasons, and can reflect several different diagnoses. That’s why a good mental health professional will give your child a thorough evaluation based on a broad range of information before coming up with a diagnosis. It’s crucial to understand what’s really behind a given behavior because, just as in medicine, the diagnosis your child receives can drastically change the appropriate treatment. ADHD medications, for example, won’t work if a child’s inattention or disruptive behavior is caused by anxiety, not ADHD. And, just like a medical doctor, when a treatment doesn’t work, whether it’s therapeutic or pharmaceutical, one of the things a good clinician will do is reexamine the diagnosis. 

Here we take a look at some of the common psychiatric symptoms that are easily misinterpreted in children and teenagers, leading to misdiagnosis. For each symptom, we explain the diagnosis it is commonly linked to, and what some of the alternate causes for what that behavior might be. (This list is only meant to be used as a guide, and it is important to always consult with a trained diagnostician before beginning treatment or assigning a label to your child.) 

  1. Inattention

The common diagnosis: ADHD

The symptom of inattention is often first observed by teachers, who may notice a student who is unusually easily distracted, is prone to daydreaming, and has difficulty completing homework assignments and following directions. While all children, especially those who are very young, tend to have shorter attention spans than adults, some children have much more trouble focusing than others.

 Inattention that is outside the typical range is one of the three key symptoms of ADHD, along with impulsivity, and hyperactivity. So when a child seems unusually distracted ADHD tends to be the first thing parents and clinicians suspect. However, there are many other possibilities that can be contributing to inattention.

“The kid who is inattentive could be inattentive because he has ADHD,” notes psychologist Steven Kurtz. “Or he could be inattentive because he is worried about his grandmother who’s sick in the hospital, or because he’s being bullied on the playground and the next period is recess.”

Other Possibilities:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):  

Many children with OCD are distracted by their obsessions and compulsions, and when the OCD is severe enough, they can spend the majority of their day obsessing. This can interfere with their lives in many ways, including paying attention in school. And since children with OCD are often ashamed of their symptoms, they may go to great lengths to hide their compulsions. It is not uncommon to see children keep their rituals under control while they are at school, only to be overwhelmed by them when they get home. Therefore, a teacher may notice a student having difficulty focusing and assume he has an attention problem, since his OCD is not apparent to her.

“A kid may be sitting in class having an obsession about needing to fix something, to avoid something terrible happening. Then the teacher calls on him,” says Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “When he doesn’t know the answer to the question, it looks like he wasn’t paying attention, but it’s really because he was obsessing.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Children can also appear to be suffering from inattention when they have been impacted by a trauma. “Many of the symptoms of PTSD look like ADHD,” explains Dr. Jamie Howard, the director of the Trauma Response and Education Service at the Child Mind Institute. “Symptoms common in PTSD, such as difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response, and hypervigilance can make it seem like a child is jumpy and spacy.”

 Learning Disorder:

When a child seems to be looking everywhere but at the pages of the book she is supposed to be reading, another possible cause is that she has a learning disorder. Undiagnosed dyslexia can not only make a youngster fidget with frustration, she may be ashamed that she doesn’t seem to be able to do what the other kids can do, and intent on covering that fact up. Feeling like a failure is a big impediment to concentration, and anything that might relieve the feeling a welcome distraction.

“Fifty percent of kids who have learning disabilities have inattention,” notes Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a Harvard Medical School professor who specializes in mental health care in school settings. “For these kids, we need to intervene to support their learning deficits, otherwise treating them with stimulants will be a bust.”

The trickiest cases, Dr. Rapport adds, are really smart kids who have successfully compensated for their learning disabilities for years, by working extra hard. “They’ve been able to hide their weakness until they get older and there’s just too much heavy lifting. They’re often diagnosed with ADHD or depression, unless someone catches the learning problem.

2.    Repetitive Distressing Thoughts 

The common diagnosis: PTSD  

Intrusive thoughts and memories that a child can’t control are one of the key symptoms of PTSD. Clinicians think of PTSD as a damaged “fight or flight” response in a child who has had a disturbing experience, whether it was an upsetting event or a pattern of domestic violence or abuse. The experience is in the past, but the child keeps reliving the anxiety.

This can take place in the form of flashbacks, thinking about the event over and over, or experiencing frightening thoughts that get “stuck.”

Other possibilities: 


 In both OCD and PTSD, you can experience thoughts that intrude, thoughts that you don’t want to be thinking about,” said Dr. Howard. “These thoughts come into your head, without your volition and without your control. In both cases, they cause you distress, and you have to work to manage them.” But there is a major difference between the repetitive thoughts in OCD and PTSD, Dr. Howard notes: “With OCD it will be a concept the causes you distress, but with PSTD it’s an actual memory of something that happened.” 

3.     Restricted Speech

 The common diagnosis: Autism

 Autism is a developmental disorder that causes a child to have impairments in communication. Children with autism may have a delay in (or complete lack of) the development of spoken language. The most obvious signs of autism are usually noticed between 2 and 3 years of age. Although many children on the spectrum do speak, they may use language in unusual ways, avoid eye contact, and prefer to be alone. Autism may first be noticed by school professionals, who become aware that the child is not interacting socially with his peers in an appropriate way.

 Other Possibilities:

 Selective Mutism:

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder in which children do not speak in particular social situations. Many children with selective mutism are talkative at home, but there may be a complete lack of speech in other settings, such as in school. They may not communicate with peers or teachers at all, which can lead to school professionals being concerned about their social development. These social difficulties may lead some school personnel to jump to the conclusion that they are on the autism spectrum.  

 “You can have difficulty with communication for a lot of reasons,” notes Dr. Kurtz. “The thing to look for is the consistency across situations. Kids with SM will be quite social and quite fabulous chatterboxes in some settings, otherwise they probably don’t have SM.”

When it comes to making a diagnosis, it is important to make the distinction between a skills deficit and a performance deficit. Children with selective mutism have a performance deficit because they have the ability to speak but cannot demonstrate it in every setting, while children on the spectrum have skills deficits, so can’t demonstrate certain skills regardless of the setting.

 Children with selective mutism may also display other symptoms that may lead to alarm bells being sounded for autism. Some kids with SM appear very “shut down” in their affect. “Because the kid’s trying, whether he knows it or not, to convince people to back off, he’s also going to have poor eye contact like a kid on the spectrum, flat affect like a kid on the spectrum,” said Dr. Kurtz. “He’s not going to look like a kid whose only issue is that he is stuck in terms of being able to talk.”

4.     Sadness, fatigue, and difficulties thinking clearly

 The common diagnosis: Depression

 It is easy for most people to recognize the symptoms of depression: feelings of sadness, decreased interest in usual pleasurable activities, fatigue, weight changes, and difficulty concentrating. While it is normal for everyone to feel “down in the dumps” sometimes, children experiencing sadness or irritability that lasts for more than two weeks and impairs their ability to function may be thought of as experiencing a depressive episode.

Other Possibilities:


Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid (a gland in your neck) is not secreting enough of certain important hormones. The symptoms of hypothyroidism look very similar to those of depression, and include fatigue, weight gain, feelings of sadness, and difficulty thinking clearly. However, the treatment for hypothyroidism is very different: children with hypothyroidism are treated using a thyroid replacement hormone.  

Anxiety Disorder:

Certain anxiety disorders, such as OCD, can be extremely impairing and scary to the person experiencing them. Children with OCD can have obsessions about invoking harm to their loved ones, as well as other violent or sexual images. While these obsessions are not true to what the child actually wants to happen, he has difficulty getting them out of his head. There are times when depressed mood is what is noticed first, but it may be secondary to another condition such as OCD. Due to the shameful thoughts that many children with OCD have, they may not feel comfortable sharing many of them, and may get misdiagnosed with depression. 

 “There are many cases where children who have fears or worrisome thoughts become depressed because they are scared and feel like things won’t get better,” explains Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist in the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. “That’s why it’s so important to accurately assess the symptoms and obtain a history that explains when they started. There are excellent treatments for anxiety disorders and depression-once a diagnosis is made, treatment can target these symptoms.”

5.     Disruptive Behavior

The common diagnosis: ODD

 Most children have occasional temper tantrums or outbursts, but when kids repeatedly lash out, are defiant, or can’t control their tempers, it can seriously impair their functioning in school and cause significant family turmoil. Often, these children are thought to have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which is characterized by a pattern of negative, hostile, or defiant behavior. Symptoms of ODD include a child losing his temper, arguing with adults, becoming easily annoyed, or actively disobeying requests or rules. In order to be diagnosed with ODD, the child’s disruptive behavior must be occurring for at least six months and be negatively affecting his life at school or at home. 

 Other possibilities:

Anxiety Disorders:

 Children with anxiety disorders have significant difficulty coping with situations that cause them distress. When a child with an untreated anxiety disorder is put into an anxiety-inducing situation, he may become oppositional in an effort to escape that situation or avoid the source of his acute fear. For example, a child with acute social anxiety may lash out at another child if he finds himself in a difficult situation. A child with OCD may become extremely upset and scream at his parents when they do not provide him with the constant repetitive reassurance that he uses to manage his obsessive fears. “It probably occurs more than we think, either anxiety that looks disruptive or anxiety coexisting with disruptive behaviors,” said Dr. Busman. “And this goes right back to why we have to have a comprehensive and good diagnostic assessment.”


 Many children with ADHD, especially those who experience impulsivity and hyperactivity, may exhibit many symptoms that make them appear oppositional. These children may have difficulty sitting still, they may touch and play with anything they can get their hands on, blurt out inappropriate remarks, have difficulty waiting their turn, interrupt others, and act without thinking through the consequences. These symptoms are more a result of their impaired executive functioning skills—their ability to think ahead and assess the impact of their behavior—than purposeful oppositional behavior.

Learning Disorder:

 When a child acts out repeatedly in school, it’s possible that the behavior stems from an undiagnosed learning disorder. Say he has extreme difficulty mastering math skills, and laboring unsuccessfully over a set of problems makes him very frustrated and irritible. Or he knows next period is math class.

“Kids with learning problems can be masters at being deceptive—they don’t want to expose their vulnerability. They want to distract you from recognizing their struggle,” explains Dr. Rappaport. “If a child has problems with writing or math or reading, rather than ask for help or admit that he’s stuck, he may rip up an assignment, or start something with another child to create a diversion.” 

 Paying attention to when the problematic behavior happens can lead to exposing a learning issue, she adds. “When parents and teachers are looking for the causes of dysregulation, it helps to note when it happens—to flag weaknesses and get kids support.”


National Immunization Month Back-to-School CDC Resources and Recommendations

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

August is National Immunization Month, which raises awareness on the importance of vaccines in protecting children against serious and fatal diseases.

The National Public Health Information Coalition, in collaboration with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed a toolkit which offers resources related to immunizations for every stage of life. Access the toolkit and CDC’s resource library .

Below are some of the recommendations for school-aged children from this toolkit.


  • Vaccinating according to the recommended immunization schedule provides your child with safe and effective protection against preventable diseases. Many vaccine-preventable diseases can spread easily in child care and school settings. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school. 
    •  Parents should check their child’s immunization records to make sure they are up to date on all recommended vaccinations. Parents with questions are encouraged to talk with their child’s health care professional to see if their child needs any catch-up doses.
  •  Talk to your child’s doctor or other health care professional to make sure your children get the vaccines they need when they need them.
    •  Take advantage of any visit to the doctor – checkups, sick visits, even physicals for sports or college – to ask about the vaccinations your child needs.
    •  Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their health care provider about the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. This program provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children who do not otherwise have access to recommended childhood vaccines. The VFC program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native.
  •  Check your child’s vaccine records to make sure they are up to date on all the vaccines they need to stay healthy.
  •  Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization or can even be deadly — especially in infants and young children.
    •   Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections (septicemia), HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV, Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis) and a yearly flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu. Teens and young adults may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.


Blog Tour: Impact School Safety by Learning to Love

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Dr. Bernadine Futrell, Director, Leadership Services at AASA, The School Superintendents Association. This blog was written as part of National Healthy Schools Day.

When considering the question, How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social – emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?, I look to love.

Centuries of research continue to point to a loving and caring adult as a principle factor in a child’s life¹ . Coupled with high rigor and expectations, love can be a significant tool in the search for solutions for school safety.  

In my experience as a district administrator, educational researcher and now through my work in professional learning at AASA, love – self-love and the love of others has always been a goal in public education. Because it has consistently nourished healthy environments.

Schools who focus on the social emotional needs of students have shown the most advances in other areas of student outcomes including student achievement. Simply put, when students feel like they belong (are loved) the academic outcomes are also positive.  

Students learn love from a variety of ways, including exposure to positive examples of people from all backgrounds and experiences. Creating opportunities for students to develop mental models of success that reflect themselves as well as others helps students develop love and compassion. School across the country are making intentional efforts to introduce diversity in their district leadership, classroom and curriculum.

This mental modeling, helps children see a future that is attainable and positive for them. It also helps all students see value in all humans.

Simple, yet powerful, when kids learn to love, communities learn to love, and when love is spread – environments are safer for all – including in and out of school.

¹Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

2018 National Healthy Schools Day AASA Blog Tour: School Safety and Positive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Overview

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

 National Healthy Schools Daynewsletter

 As part of National Healthy Schools Day today, AASA Children’s Programs Department hosted a blog tour on school safety to help stimulate conversation on healthy schools and positive SEL, in response to the debate surrounding our schools in light of recent violence in Florida and elsewhere. Participants were asked to one or both of the following questions:

  1. Considering the continued threat of gun violence in our schools, what does a healthy school look like to you today? Have school shootings altered your view of what it means to be a healthy school?
  2.  How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?

CoCAT school safety pop up

Below is a list of the posts that were published as part of the Blog Tour:

Superintendent Voice

Public Health Organizations

Higher Education Researchers

LGBTQ & Student Voice 

  • Time Out Youth, a youth center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies, ages 11-20, in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding areas.  


Blog Tour: Healthy and Safe at School: If not now, when?

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

The following is cross-post by Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE , Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses. The original post can be found here. 

What do you say when a third grade student asks a trusted teacher if she is safe from violent intruders in the school? Who champions implementation of a dormant school wellness policy in order to support students with the best nutrition and physical activity choices? How do you press past frustration with social factors that impact the health of children and youth? On this National Healthy Schools day we ask: How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) envisions school communities where students are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Violent acts, such as school shootings, threaten the safety and well-being of students and school staff; action must be focused on common sense solutions. As with any complex and multifaceted situations, a multi-disciplinary approach enables interventions.

What we do know is that a healthy school environment begins with a student-centered collaborative approach by leaders within schools and communities. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model centers on the whole child and incorporates 10 components vital for a healthy and safe school environment. The WSCC model components include.

  •  Counseling, Psychological & Social Services
  • Social & Emotional Climate
  • Physical Environment
  • Employee Wellness
  • Family Engagement
  • Community Involvement
  • Health Education
  • Physical Education & Physical Activity
  • Nutrition Environment & Services
  • Health Services

 That third grade student who wonders if she is safe from violent intruders in her school relies on the trusted teacher who depends on the school administrator who convenes an emergency preparedness of staff and community partners to plan, mitigate, train, and practice response to the plan. The specialized instructional support team, i.e., school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, and school social worker, focus on counseling, psychological, social and emotional climate.

NASN Blog Tour April 2018

A new school nurse who found an untapped wellness policy in her school district organized a wellness committee that would oversee implementation of wellness policy activities. Parents, school superintendent, principals, school nurses, and community members became the wellness committee. After completing the CDC’s School Health Index – a self assessment and planning tool – the wellness committee had the information needed to learn the school strengths and growth opportunities. The next step involved identifying recommendations to foster a healthy and safe school environment.

Another aspect of attending to student well-being is to acknowledge the factors that are barriers to health. School nurses assess social determinants and connect students and families with community resources that may address those factors.
NASN’s vision is for all students to be healthy and safe in schools. Now is the time for making schools healthy and safe environments.

Blog Tour: Telemedicine Offsets Loss of Learning Time

(Children’s Health Insurance , Coordinated School Health, National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

The following is a cross-post which was originally published by the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the Milken Institute School for Public Health at George Washington University on March 30, 2018. 

This post is by Dr. Dan Leikvold, Superintendent, Lead-Deadwood-School District (South Dakota)

The Lead-Deadwood School District is a rural district located in the Northern Black Hills of western South Dakota. It has a K-12 population of around 710. The tourism, gaming, and mining industries are the primary economic drivers in the Lead-Deadwood Community.

Although there are many outstanding opportunities for workers in the area, as with many school districts, we too have our share of challenges that are directly associated with the effects of poverty. This includes behavioral issues, transiency, limited access to transportation, and a lack of affordable housing. The free and reduced lunch rate in our district is around 50%. 

Over the course of the last ten years, the school district has identified and worked with multiple local and regional agencies to address the needs of our children and families affected by poverty. We realize we cannot be all things to all people, but we recognize the crucial connection between our children being happy, healthy, safe and supported and their ability to learn at school.

As part of this comprehensive approach, the school district entered into a partnership with Behavior Management Systems (BMS) in 2013 to bring a Family Pathways therapist from BMS to our schools/community full-time. All of the children and adolescents with whom the therapists work must meet the severely and emotionally disturbed criteria as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the program is open to anyone with this diagnosis whether or not they have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This partnership has been a win-win opportunity for both parties and has benefited our children and families immensely. Family Pathways is a fee-for-service program, so the direct costs to the school are minimal and include providing the therapist with an office and internet access, use of a copier, and parking.

After five years of a successful partnership in which we have been able to serve approximately 100 children and families onsite, we have identified another very important issue to address in order to have an even better program. In conjunction with BMS, we will now be providing mental health services to the students in the Lead-Deadwood School District via telemedicine free of charge to students and families, as well as the school district, during the school day.

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients without the need for an in-person visit with the medical provider. TeleMed is the service provider BMS and the district use for the service.

 The TeleMed program will alleviate barriers for families, so that medication and other therapies are consistent and maintained. Many times, appointments are missed due to challenges with transportation facing students and families. As a result, obtaining and maintaining adequate medication therapy is interrupted. This new approach will alleviate that problem.

This is how it works. A parent/guardian must be present at each appointment with BMS. BMS will handle all release requirements prior to our students receiving services in our schools. Before each BMS appointment, the School Nurse takes weight and blood pressure data for each student so the BMS provider has this information, but the District is not responsible for or charged for any portion of the services provided in the Lead-Deadwood School District. We are responsible for providing a computer and technical support during the time of the TeleMed appointment with BMS. Our students meet virtually with the BMS provider once per month or more if needed.

Students that receive free lunch will qualify for BMS services at no cost and there is a sliding scale rate for students that do not qualify. We will make referrals to BMS based on school and parent communication, similar to what we currently do with BMS on-site counseling services. BMS has contacted the Lead and Deadwood pharmacies and both are capable of receiving escripts.

Instead of taking a student out of school from three to four hours to an entire day, these virtual, in-building appointments will take a maximum of 20 minutes to half an hour. This will allow parents to come to the elementary school, eliminating the barriers of time, transportation hassles for parents and students, and loss of attendance. We appreciate this partnership and are excited to be able to offer this new service to our children and families.

 Dr. Leikvold is also an Education Advisor to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the Milken Institute School for Public Health at George Washington University for a RWJF-funded project to provide state and local stakeholders in the education and health sectors with tools they can use to develop a sustainable, cross-sector infrastructure to provide integrated supports for the healthy development and academic success of students. For more information visit the Center’s website or Partner Build Grow: An Action Guide for Sustaining Child Development and Prevention Approaches.

Blog Tour: Three Supportive Ways School Districts Can Create Healthy Schools and Reduce Threats of Weapon Violence

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Ron Avi Astor and Rami Benbenishty  


 RonAviAstor  RamiHeadshot
Ron Avi Astor Rami Benbenishty

Ron Avi Astor, is the Stein-Wood Professor of School Behavioral Health at the University of Southern California in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the Rossier School of Education. Rami Benbenishty is a professor in the School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University. They work together on international efforts designed to support school climate improvement and prevent bullying and school violence. They are co-authors of "Welcoming practices: Creating schools that support students and families in transition" and "Mapping and monitoring bullying and violence: Building a safe school climate." The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

We are in the midst of a national battle over what our schools should be. How do we create citizens who are A+ human beings in addition to being A+ students? How do we create thriving, optimal academic school environments where the interactions between students, teachers, parents, and the community create a better union both within our schools and for the future of our fractured society? Indeed, we are debating not only what we want our schools to be but also what we want our society to be.

One vision for our nation’s schools upholds the belief that the path toward lasting safety comes from welcoming, caring, and supportive environments. This path focuses on improving school climate, engaging in social emotional learning (SEL), and fostering a compassionate community — in addition to offering a high-quality academic program. This vision advocates for humane social supports, institutional linkages, and community resources for those students struggling with mental health, societal obstacles, and family or community strife.

Another vision is a response to mass shootings. This strategy uses tools and ideas that originate in law enforcement, prison architecture, and military and anti-terror strategies. This approach tries to “harden” schools and aims to protect students from murder by creating prison-like, high-security environments patrolled by armed staff members. 

This is not only a philosophical and ideological debate, it also raises a set of empirical and scientific questions. We believe the answers are quite clear. Decades of well-conducted, large-scale studies from across the world strongly support one vision and not the other. Schools with a positive climate, where SEL is integrated into their DNA, have significantly less bullying and victimization, and have lower weapon use, threats by a weapon, and students reporting they have seen or know of a weapon on school grounds. There is no evidence for the success of “hardening” schools with armed staff members, zero-tolerance measures, and harsher law enforcement measures. In fact, the lion’s share of findings and studies point to negative outcomes of these approaches, including higher drop-out rates, a school-to-prison pipeline, higher expulsion and suspension rates, and climates of fear or restricted freedom.

Our research and experience in numerous schools around the world suggest three main principles that could guide district superintendents to create better climate, more welcoming schools, and lower violence on school grounds.

  1. District- Level Vision: Go for central air vs. window air-conditioning.

Be clear with all district administrators and school site principals how climate, SEL, academics and school safety are integrated into the mission of the district and of each school. There is a need for an overall and comprehensive approach that encompasses every aspect of the lives of schools — a “central air conditioning,” rather than an endless and short-lived series of disjointed programs (“window air-conditioning”). Research shows that when this comprehensive and integrated approach is adopted, climate, safety and welcoming environments are more sustainable, and can more easily spread to multiple schools within a district. When programs addressing SEL, climate, safety and the school’s academic mission separately, these missions compete against each other and are not easily sustained over time.

 From this perspective, the best investment districts can make is to build a core team of pupil personnel, social workers, psychologists, and counselors who work with every school and build sustainable capacity at the district and school level. The long-term yield and the flexibility of this group of professionals would be greater than an evidence-based-program that is not directly linked to the specific social or mental health needs of the schools in that community. Well-trained pupil personnel can sustain and extend evidence-based and youth empowerment interventions district-wide. They can reach beyond program limitations and adapt interventions specifically to the school and community’s cultural needs.

A stable group of district- and school-level pupil personnel staff members is an important defense against the inevitable turnover among school and district personnel. They can help train new educators and other staff members, and maintain the organizational memory.

 2.    Good school safety is an extension of the principal’s vision and organization of the school.

 Research from around the world has shown that the principal's vision and organization of each school is the strongest safety tool a district can employ. In schools where strong leaders have an integrated vision of climate, SEL, academics, and safety, many types of interventions can be effective. In schools with weak organizations and leadership, most safety approaches fail. Superintendents need to find ways to support principals and provide them with resources that can help them carry out the district’s safety mission. These include in-service training for all district and school employees, technological support, and flexibility in using safety resources.  

Strong and knowledgeable school leaders are aware of the unique safety concerns and characteristics of their schools. They resist a “one-size-fits-all” approach in order to create a unique blend of school safety policies and practices that reflect both the shared district vision and the uniqueness of their site. 

3.      Listen to the voices of teachers, students and parents, and empower all stakeholders to take responsibility in creating welcoming schools.

 In Israel and California schools, we’ve employed mapping and monitoring processes that gather the experiences and ideas of principals, teachers, students, and parents. This data helps district and school leaders identify which schools and student groups are experiencing bullying, discrimination, and victimization. Furthermore, it helps identify schools in which students see weapons, are threatened by a weapon, or bring a weapon to school. This mapping process takes a public health approach that focuses on primary prevention across all schools, with a special emphasis on providing resources and support to schools with more challenges. It’s done in a kind and supportive educational way rather than through law enforcement. Evidence-based programs such as threat assessment can be used in schools where threats are high.

We have implemented these principles in several places around the world. In California, monitoring the multiple views of students, staff members, and parents (using the California Healthy Kids Survey) helped leaders understand their schools' challenges and needs, and work toward responses that were relevant for their own particular sites. These schools used students’ voices and self-reports to improve their school’s climate, reduce violence, and create welcoming schools. By building pupil personnel teams that work with administrators, parents, students, and teachers and by allocating resources based on the unique needs of each school and district, there were significant positive changes.

In a recent seven-year study on the use of these methods in 145 schools in California (serving over 100,000 students), we found (for secondary schools):

  • A 55% reduction in gun carrying on school grounds
  •  A 37.5% reduction in knives, guns, clubs or other weapons being used to injure someone or to threaten injury.
  •  A 40% reduction in seeing a weapon on school grounds
  •  A 44% reduction in gang affiliation and participation

Every district is different; every superintendent is unique, but we do think that the principles we outline are flexible enough to allow every superintendent and every district to find their own unique path. Programs without trained staff members do not work. Creating a welcoming and caring setting with a strong knowledgeable staff is the best way to both prevent violence and create thriving school settings that do not feel like prison.


Blog Tour: The Role of Education Leaders To Ensure Safe Schools

(National Awareness) Permanent link

Guest post by Dr. MaryAnn P. Jobe, Director, Leadership Development, AASA

Thanks to the AASA Children’s Program staff for having a blog tour on Healthy Schools today, April 3, 2018.

Schools today and especially the leaders of the school systems have a tremendous job to do to ensure the safety of students, staff and community in today’s world. Sometimes I am sure that it seems like an unsurmountable job. 

As a former administrator for a large urban/suburban school system, we dealt with many instances of school violence and community violence. How do work through this? Well, it is not easy. One of the most helpful ideas that emerged was to hold bi-yearly summits with school principals, school system security and the police. During these day long meetings, the school system employees learned about the newest and best tactics to use during violent situations that may occur on school campuses. And, the principals were also charged with being the community point person.

What does a healthy school environment look like today? Research suggests that educators should focus on the basic needs of childhood: food, clothing, shelter, etc. What is now emerging more than ever before is the need for advanced mental health support. Many school systems have 1 psychologist for the entire school system and there needs to be a contingent of professionals who can work with students. Over the next few months I hope that schools revisit their identification process for troubled teens and look at ways to support them and their families. And, we need families in the community to speak up. If your child is exhibiting dangerous behaviors, call the school and have a meeting about it.

Today, as gun violence in schools is a major focus especially after the shootings at MSDHS in Florida, school system employees need to be better prepared. How, do we do this? Well, there needs to be a rigorous shelter in place protocol, students and staff need to know what to do. School security guards need to be professionally trained by police or training updated if they are already receiving support and communities need to be proactive in working with the children to alleviate fears of going to school. Community forums can help get the word out. We have a lot of work to do.

Schools are still one of the safest places for children to be.