GUSD approves plan to address students' social, emotional needs

When Glendale school officials approved a three-year plan last week to ensure students' academic success and prioritize the district's money, they also committed to the plan's robust focus on students' social and emotional needs.

During the 2014-15 school year, educators plan to evaluate services available to students in terms of academic counselors and mental-health providers, and develop a strategy to improve and expand on those services.

Deb Rinder, senior director of categorical programs for Glendale Unified, led a committee of 90 parents, educators and other stakeholders who met several times over the past several months to develop the district's goals for social and emotional support for the next three years.

"It was very clear across the board there was an interest and need to address more than just the academic," she said. "Students who have emotional and social challenges struggle academically. We know that. To address just the academic and not look at the social-emotional is, in my opinion, looking at one spoke in the wheel instead in the whole wheel."

According to a district report, psychologists spend an average of two days per week at elementary schools, three days per week at the middle schools and five days per week at the high schools.

By the end of the school year, officials hope to increase the number of days that psychologists spend at "high need" schools — those with a large number of students requesting support or those with higher special-education populations.

Another aim is to decrease the number of students who are referred for crisis psycho-educational assessments, meaning they may be evaluated by a team of administrators, psychologists, counselors or others to determine if the student is a threat to themselves or others.

On a monthly average, district data shows those assessments are given once at the elementary level, twice at the middle schools and four times at the high schools.

In many cases, students can be referred to additional support from outside agencies.

Another one of the district's goals is to decrease the percentage of students seriously considering suicide by 3%.

In a district report, officials cite results from the 2012 California Healthy Kids Survey, where 29% of local students in 11th grade reported sad or hopeless feelings during the past 12 months. About 26% of Glendale freshmen and 21% of seventh-graders reported those same feelings.

Officials said additional mental health providers, counselors or educators trained to recognize symptoms of students' mental health challenges will provide greater support for children and teens.

"Early intervention [in] any form is always the best practice," said Amy Lambert, the district's assistant superintendent of special education.

Educators also want to increase the number of students who attend school, reduce suspension rates and bump up graduation rates.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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