By Guy Page
Public school mental health crisis – Franklin Northeast Superintendent Lynn Cota Jan. 26 told the Senate Health & Welfare Committee about the growing number, magnitude and complexity of the pandemic-related mental health crisis in Vermont schools. In particular, Cota said schools statewide are now seeing more:
- violent outbursts
- episodes of vandalism
- sexualized behaviors in students in pre-k through 12th grade
- significant disruption
- students running away from schools
- increased threats of harm to self and others
“The increase in demand is outpacing the level of resources that we have within the state,” Cota said. “So schools are really right now serving children in the general education system who are exhibiting behaviors and mental health challenges that far exceed anything that we would have previously considered manageable.”
The wait list for placements in alternative schools for troubled youth are a year or more longer, Cota said.
Cota said the public schools need help from Vermont’s other service providers. That’s why she supports S197, to create a “Coordinated Mental Health Crisis Response Working Group for the purpose of developing and articulating a predictable and coordinated system of response to mental health crises among law enforcement, emergency medical service providers, emergency departments, health care providers, and community mental health service providers.”
Other school news:
Schools short 400 subs, need is growing – Vermont public schools have more than 400 openings for substitutes, an upswing of about 16% in the past three weeks, according to the latest issue of the 802 Newsletter.
Several states are considering untraditional methods of finding substitute teachers as the nationwide staffing shortage continues, newsletter editor Steven Berbeco reports. For example, Oklahoma’s governor recently issued an executive order permitting state employees to work as substitute teachers while still receiving their normal salary and benefits.
School shootings – Education Week is tracking school shootings in 2022 and reports four school shootings so far this year, with the most recent one in Maryland. As a reminder, Vermont Dept. of Public Safety and the Agency of Education operate an anonymous school safety tip line for students, school staff, and their community: calling 1-844-SAFE4VT; texting SAFE4VT to 274637; or online at safe4vt.org.
DC says support refugees – The U.S. Department of Education recently released a Dear Colleague letter about supporting “vulnerable Afghans as they safely resettle in the United States.” The letter includes links to resources and policy clarifications about flexibility in spending federal funds.
In December, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Office Afghans (and family members) who assisted the US military and partners were evacuated due to threats in August 2021. Vermont plans to welcome a total of 230 Afghans in Vermont. As of Dec. 14 the office had welcomed approximately 75, many of whom were placed with host families in Chittenden and Washington County as long term housing is sought. Since then, refugees have arrived in Rutland and Brattleboro.