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WITH POLL | Local schools have plans in place to support students in times of tragedy

by Andrew Bell | May 13, 2022 at 4:28 p.m.
Members of the New Boston community attend a candlelight vigil Monday in memory of Megan Daniel, 17, and Ashlin Cox, 19, at the New Boston High School football field in November 2020. (Gazette file photo)

When a tragedy occurs involving a school student or staff member, a quick response is required by the school to help the student body cope with the situation.

Two recent tragedies in the last couple of weeks have caused local school districts to do just that.

Hope High School student Tykendrick Bradford, 16, died in a shooting on May 3. Six days later, Avery High School student Harley Goodwin, 18, died in a car accident.

Hope Public School District and Avery ISD have deployed counselors and other mental health services to students on campus to aid in the grieving and coping process.

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“A student’s death is a difficult and challenging situation that can generate a high level of stress and anxiety,” Avery ISD Superintendent Debbie Drew said in a statement after the incident.

Drew said that counselors and bereavement support services were made available to students and staff shortly after Goodwin’s death.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley said his district has three full-time social workers, each campus has a full-time counselor and faculty and administration are involved where needed and appropriate.

“It is likely they will provide assistance where needed and appropriate through the week and beyond,” he said in a statement.

While tragic cases that call for schools to provide these services seem few and far between, certain data show that students experience trauma and are in need of mental health services.

On April 28, the Springtide Research Institute released a mental health review drawing information from over 3,000 surveys and 80 interviews completed by students in middle school, high school and college in spring 2022. According to their findings, about 55% of students who took the surveys say they have experienced trauma, while 41% say they’ve approached an adult at school for help with emotional challenges in the past three months. About half, 49%, say they’ve talked to a mental health professional such as a therapist, counselor or psychologist in the past three months.

This recent news and data raise the question: What mental health services are available to local students at surrounding schools in the area?

The Gazette received responses from three local school districts and one college on the topic. The feedback indicates that most school districts deploy at least one certified counselor on each of their campuses to be there for students in the event of a tragedy.

The districts also have established procedures for how to deal with these situations.

 Texarkana ISD Director of Communications Todd Marshall explained his district’s procedures.

“If we have a student or staff member who has experienced a tragedy, we offer counseling support and resources to support the student. In a situation where there may be stress on the campus due to an event occurring within or outside of our school environments, we immediately dispatch a crisis response team to that campus so that students and staff can go to an identified area and meet with a counselor.

“We take every precaution possible to ensure that our students and staff have a safe learning environment, and we also prepare for any situation where our students might need support.”

Pleasant Grove ISD Director of Communications Shelby Akin said if additional resources are needed after an incident, the district uses the Region 8 Service Center and local community resources to provide it.

“Campus administration communicates these available resources to the students and parents of the campus as needed,” she said.

Texarkana College uses its chief of police, as well as its licensed professional counselor, to support students and staff as they grieve the loss of a student or member of the school family.

“We’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve hosted sessions for students, faculty and staff as they grieve a death or a tragedy,” TC Director of Public Relations Suzy Irwin said.

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MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Arkansas

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Arkansas: namiarkansas.org

Stay Positive Arkansas (free crisis counseling services): staypositivearkansas.com

Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center (Texarkana, sliding scale payment): 870-773-4655

Texas

Community Healthcore 24-Hour Crisis Line: 1-800-832-1009

Health and Human Services Commission COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line: 833-986-1919

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Texas: namitexas.org

UT Health Science Center at Tyler Helpline (focus on East Texas resources): 903-877-5159

National

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741


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