BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - The Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District has developed a mental health action plan to address tough realities students are facing in terms of stress at and away from school.
"We as a district do a really nice job of making sure our kids are safe in their physical buildings, but we really need to take a look at kids and help them feel safe in their own bodies,” said Superintendent Joelle Magyar.
Self-esteem, communication and relationships are cornerstones of the mental health action plan.
“We’re trying to prevent teen suicide, but also some more day to day behaviors that people may not realize students have,” said Dr. Gina Symsek, director of pupil services. “For example, self-harm- such as cutting, eating disorders and just overall anxiety they’re reporting they’re having.”
Recent student focus groups informed educators what students are feeling.
“One of the things that came through loud and clear was that our kids are really stressed out they feel very stressed,” Magyar said.
Symsek said safe classrooms require healthy and well-rounded kids. For adults, it means identifying issues early and providing solutions.
“We want to embed some social and emotional learning and activities into their instructional day,” Symsek said.
Changes are already in place. The high school has reinstated homeroom. “The kids felt like they just needed time to talk (and) needed time to reconnect that wasn't tied to a study hall (and) that wasn't tied to an academic time of their day,” Magyar said.
The high school has also added what’s called a “colony period”. Magyar described it as an advisory council. It involves pairing the same group of kids together for all four years of high school and giving them an opportunity to build a safety net through activities and conversation.
“(It) creates more of not just that individual well-being but group and community sense of well-being,” Symsek said.
The district is also working to expand universal screenings which evaluates students’ academic and social and emotional indicators. Invention strategies can then be implemented for at-risk children.
Symsek said leaders are also looking to work with mental health agencies to bring their services to school buildings. Symsek said the services could be utilized, with parent permission, soon.
“It’s really about building that rapport between students and adults that can really make this successful,” Symsek said.
Other efforts to bring students together include the “LOVE4BBH” rally which was held at the start of the school year. “Our message was no matter what we love you,” Magyar said. “No matter what you’re dealing with we are here for you. We wanted to make sure that that message across to all of our kids.”
Parents in the district created the We Care Community Initiative to provide support to students. “We Care" yard signs signify homes in the community that are considered safe places. More information on the initiative, including how to request signs, can be found by contacting the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.