Fostering a culture of connectedness is an important aspect of school safety. Studies and reports indicate that prior to a school shooting incident, many alleged shooters experienced feelings of isolation, depression, and detachment. The National School Climate Center reports that school climate and an effective school climate process are important because a positive school climate can serve as a protective factor that supports positive life outcomes for young people. It can also result in improved safety at school with a dramatic decrease in risky behaviors; lower rates of student suspension and discipline issues in general; and result in physical, social, and emotional benefits.

School Climate Resources

School counselors are vital resources in preventing violent incidents, intervening when concerns arise about potential violence and responding when violence occurs. Through the implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program, school counselors promote school safety, assist students engaging in unhealthy or unsafe behaviors and make referrals as needed. School counselors are familiar with the school community and knowledgeable about the roles of community mental health providers and first responders such as law enforcement officials and emergency medical responders.

In addition, school counselors are required by WVBE Policy 2315 to coordinate the school’s mental health crisis response plan. School counselors help with the mitigation of stressors in students and staff and play a significant leadership role especially in the coordination of mental health crisis response and the immediate aftermath of a crisis or act of school violence. Trained in crisis response intervention models, school counselors serve as integral members of a school’s response team in collaboration with administrators and other school staff members.

Safe school and crisis response literature suggest several important crisis prevention and response preparedness practices in which school counselors should engage, including:

  • individual and group counseling advocacy for student safety
  • interventions for students at risk of dropping out or harming self or others
  • peer mediation training, conflict resolution programs and anti-bullying programs
  • support of student-initiated programs such as Students Against Violence Everywhere
  • family, faculty and staff education programs
  • facilitation of open communication between students and caring adults
  • defusing critical incidents and providing related stress debriefing
  • district and school response team planning and practices
  • partnering with community resources

Resources:

Improving school safety cannot focus solely on alleviating incidents of violence. Successful efforts must improve the culture in which students live and learn. This includes devel­oping students of strong character who are looking to the future and are connected in meaningful ways to their peers, educators and communities.

WV Standards for Student Success

The WV Standards for Student Success describe the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and dispositions all students shall develop in relation to personal and social development, academic and learning development, career and life planning, and global citizenship. They are critical to the holistic development of all students and require integration into all aspects of each student’s educational experience utilizing a variety of delivery modalities.

Free Lessons for Student Success

  • Everfi (K – 12th): Free digital lessons focused on topics like health and wellness, social skills and character education, and academic areas.
  • Kids.gov (4th – 6th): Government Jobs lesson plans
  • Career One Stop (9th-12th):– Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor
  • myStrategic Compass (6th – 12th): College and Career Exploration and planning. (funded by WVDE CTE & Governor’s Economic Initiatives). For information about creating an account for your school, contact Nicole Stanley nstanley@winlearning.com).

Additional lessons and resources are being identified and developed and will be added to the WVDE website as they become available.

The goal of PBIS is to improve safe and supportive school environments which meet the physical, social, emotional and academic needs of every child. Decreasing aggressive conduct and bullying can occur through improving culture and climate, building relationships with students and staff, changing academic outcomes and increasing prosocial behaviors. For more information about getting started with PBIS at your school, please visit http://wvpbis.org/.

School mental health services are essential to creating and sustaining safe schools. Seventy-five percent of students struggling with mental illness do not receive mental health services and mental health is a key component in students’ healthy development and academic achievement. Increased access to mental health services and supports in schools is vital to improving the physical and psychological safety of our students and schools, as well as academic performance and problem-solving skills. Increasingly, school systems are joining forces with community health, mental health, and social service agencies to promote student well-being and to prevent and treat mental health disorders. Through these collaborations, schools and local agencies are working together to address the growing health, behavioral, and mental health needs of students.

Expanded School Mental Health in WVExpanded School Mental Health Logo

A jointly sponsored effort of the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) refers to programs that build on core services typically provided by schools. ESMH is a framework that:

  • includes the full continuum of prevention, early intervention and treatment
  • serves all students
  • emphasizes shared responsibility between schools and community mental health providers.

If you are interested in implementing ESMH in your area, contacting Tiffany Pittman, WV School Health Technical Assistance Center, at pittman6@marshall.edu.

WV DHHR Behavioral Health Centers State DirectoryWV DHHR Logo

This comprehensive directory provides county information about for county behavioral health offices, crisis services, and other services available throughout WV.

cis logo

Communities In Schools works inside school systems with superintendents, principals, educators, and other personnel, to forge community partnerships that bring resources into schools and help remove barriers to student learning. It addresses both the total student—physical, psychological, and social needs—and the whole school environment. Our research has shown that this attention to the needs of individual students and the school is critical to reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates. The key is the Communities In Schools Model. Comprehensive and integrated services are provided in each participating school through a single point of contact—the school-based Site Coordinator. Site Coordinators tailor services to the needs of individual students. Services may encompass academic help, provision of health care, counseling, transportation, donated goods, mentoring, afterschool programs, and much more.

A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools

This joint statement provides a framework supported by educators for improving school safety and increasing access to mental health supports for children and youth.

Project AWARE: Youth Mental Health First Aid

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Free training is available through the WV Project AWARE grant funding and a collaboration between the WVDE Office of Special Education and the WV Autism Training Center at Marshall University. Contact Dianna Bailey-Miller at baileymiller@marshall.edu or (304) 695-1155 to schedule a training in your county.

Handle With Care

If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s name and three words, HANDLE WITH CARE, are forwarded to the school/child care agency before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula so that traumatized children are “Handled With Care”. If a child needs more intervention, on-site trauma-focused mental healthcare is available at the school.

Trauma-Informed Schools

In a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. Students are provided with clear expectations and communication strategies to guide them through stressful situations. The goal is to not only provide tools to cope with extreme situations but to create an underlying culture of respect and support. A trauma-sensitive school provides a safe and respectful environment that enables students to build caring relationships with adults and peers, self-regulate their emotions and behaviors, and succeed academically, while supporting their physical health and well-being.

Common Ground

commonground logoThe Common Ground Speaker Series delivers a means for schools and school districts to request guest speaker visits from military service organizations in an effort to positively impact student success. These guest speakers provide information about a variety of identified series topics which include, but are not limited to, the following: promoting literacy, substance abuse prevention, anti-bullying, drop-out prevention, the American flag, and patriotic holidays or events.

If you are a school staff member and would like to request that a military service member speaker contact you for the purpose of providing information about identified series topics, please use the Speaker Series request website.

Help & Hope WVHelp and Hope WV Logo

Help & Hope WV connects people to information, tools, directory of services, calendar of trainings, and events across the state.

StigmaFreeWVStigmaFreeWV

StigmaFreeWV provides information about the types of stigma experienced by individuals with substance use disorders, stories of recovery, and how people can get involved.

According to stopbullying.gov, “bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. For information on Bullying Prevention, please visit this website.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Schools are a key setting for suicide prevention. Teachers, mental health providers, and all other school personnel who interact with students can play an important role in keeping them safe. By passing House Bill 2535, West Virginia established requirements for that state’s middle and high schools to distribute and discuss suicide prevention awareness information to its students.

Teachers, counselors, and other school staff are in an optimal position to prevent, identify, and assist victims of child abuse and neglect because of their frequent contact with students.

And this statement under the logo:  For more information about reporting abuse and neglect, click here.

Resources

In response to HB 4402:

  • The requirement for children enrolled in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade in WV public schools to receive age-appropriate body safety information at least once during the academic year, with a preference for four times per academic year. This requirement will go into effect on July 1, 2019.
  • WVBE will develop resources as well as a list of minimum content standards which will be made available to schools.
  • WVBE will update Policy 4373, Expected Behavior in Safe and Supportive Schools, to include sexual abuse education and prevention training of public school employees.
  • WVBE will provide a list of minimum content standards for training requirements.
  • Counties will be responsible for administering a training to all public school employees every two years.
  • Online training resources, along with certificates of satisfactory completion will be developed and provided by the WVBE.

Preventing and reducing substance use among students will allow them to thrive and reach their full potential. As a teacher, school nurse, school counselor, school administrator, or other school staff member, you have the power to intervene early to prevent and confront substance abuse and foster safe learning environments for students.

Help & Hope WVHelp and Hope WV Logo

Help & Hope WV connects people to information, tools, directory of services, calendar of trainings, and events across the state.

GET HELP NOW

This National Helpline provides 24-hour free and confidential treatment referral and information about mental and substance use disorders, prevention, and recovery in English and Spanish. 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889

To find a publicly funded treatment center in your state, visit the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

Schools can and should be safe havens for students, and even more so for some students whose lives are otherwise characterized by instability and lack of safety or security. In these cases, school personnel are uniquely well positioned to identify and report suspected abuse and connect students to services—actions that can prevent trafficking and even save lives. Everyone who is part of the school community—administrators, teachers, bus drivers, maintenance personnel, food service staff, resource officers, and other school community members—has the potential to be an advocate for child victims of human trafficking, but, first, school community members must learn the indicators of the crime, its warning signs, and how to respond when a student is an apparent victim.

What if I suspect a Child is Being Trafficked? (WV Center for Children’s Justice)

  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911
  • Learn to Recognize the Signs of human trafficking in your community
  • Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/
    • Text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733) if you need help
  • Report to Local, State and/ or Federal Law Enforcement

Schools play a significant role in supporting the health and well-being of children and youth, including those affected by traumatic experiences. In a trauma-sensitive school, all pieces of the educational environment are grounded in an understanding of trauma and its impact and are designed to promote resilience for all.

Handle With Care

If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s name and three words, HANDLE WITH CARE, are forwarded to the school/child care agency before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula so that traumatized children are “Handled With Care”. If a child needs more intervention, on-site trauma-focused mental healthcare is available at the school.

Trauma-Informed Schools

In a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. A trauma-sensitive school provides a safe and respectful environment that enables students to build caring relationships with adults and peers, self-regulate their emotions and behaviors, and succeed academically, while supporting their physical health and well-being.

For information on FREE Trauma Sensitive Schools Training Contact:
The WV Behavioral Health Technical Assistance Center
Amy Kelly
304-696-2332