CARIBOU, Maine — In the wake of the recent shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, a person faculty district in Aroostook County is eradicating its police officer in favor of selecting much more individuals to help pupils with their psychological health issues.
When faced with an progressively tight finances, a scarcity in area legislation enforcement and a major enhance in mental health and fitness concerns between learners, the Caribou college district chose to employ the service of far more mental overall health support and administrative staff members for the coming 12 months, consequently reducing its faculty resource officer as of July 1.
The district needs to tackle issues that have impacted a lot more pupils considering the fact that COVID-19, these as social media bullying and harassment, stress and anxiety and despair, prior to they develop into way too destructive and guide to violence or self-damage, RSU 39 Superintendent Timothy Doak said Friday.
Like school districts throughout the United States, RSU 39 (Caribou and Stockholm) is struggling with decisions on how to greatest react to fears about school security and the roles that police officers really should participate in in sustaining it. Though some districts see the employing of college resource officers as crucial for halting school-centered violence, other folks spend their limited assets in social personnel, counselors and alternative types of non-police intervention. RSU 39, which serves 700 prekindergarten by eighth-quality college students and 480 higher school pupils at its two Caribou colleges, is deciding on psychological health.
“Social media bullying and harassment have turn out to be rampant, primarily at the middle college amount,” Doak mentioned.
Though social media bullying was an concern prior to COVID-19, the pandemic pressured students into isolation when lessons switched to distant discovering. A lot of students used extra time alone whilst their moms and dads worked, rising their social media use, Doak explained.
Learners have been to in-particular person classes a lot more in the course of this college yr than any other time for the duration of the pandemic. But the amplified perception of isolation and uncertainty that grew out of the pandemic inspired many students to connect on their phones and social media additional, further more exposing them to bullies, he mentioned.
“When I was rising up, my mom answered the mobile phone and vetted all the calls,” Doak stated. “Now, a college student could be obtaining prepared for mattress and acquire a text without having their moms and dads understanding.”
The university district has contracted with Caribou Law enforcement Department for 4 yrs for a resource officer at the two Caribou Neighborhood Faculty and Caribou High College. The district compensated the city centered on the amount of money of time the officer put in on university grounds.
The district projected its full charges to preserve the useful resource officer up coming faculty 12 months would be $80,000. The lack of a entirely staffed law enforcement department in Caribou intended that the officer invested time at both of those colleges all through only 25 % of the latest university calendar year — which was a factor in the final decision to remove the position, Doak mentioned.
Although the district wishes to have its university useful resource officer return, it has decided to use its budgeted money to address psychological wellbeing demands among the learners, Doak stated.
RSU 39 has relied on two entire-time social workers considering that opening the newly built Caribou Neighborhood Faculty in 2020. Now the district will seek the services of a third social worker, who previously labored as an ed tech at the local community school but has encounter in scenario administration.
The strategy is to address behavioral issues that have increased because learners returned to in-person classes, these kinds of as anger challenges and college students providing up on them selves much more quickly and turning into confused, Doak reported.
“There was this panic we all had through COVID which is however right here even even though we’re in man or woman,” he said.
Caribou Large University has three counselors and one social employee and does not strategy to incorporate additional in the in close proximity to future. For the initial time in a decade, the school will have a complete-time assistant principal this tumble.
The district sees the assistant principal as a person who can far more easily intervene in non-criminal offense-related college student challenges, Doak reported. Maine legislation offers directors authority to carry out home visits, research backpacks and intervene in non-violent confrontations concerning college students, when university resource officers ordinarily deal with crime-associated issues.
Getting a further administrative workforce member will also insert a trusted adult that pupils can switch to if they witness or encounter bullying or want to tackle mental wellness fears, Caribou Significant Faculty counselor Rani Mehta explained.
“We convey to young children ‘if you see one thing, say a thing.’ From time to time we understand factors [about other students] that could be lifesaving, so acquiring one more man or woman who can continue to keep people youngsters on their radar is huge,” Mehta claimed.
Students’ and workers members’ fears about mental health arrive at a time wherever even dependable in-individual studying has not prevented a bullying-relevant tragedy.
On March 3, a 14-year-aged university student from Caribou Group Faculty died. His obituary explained him as somebody who stood up for the vulnerable and bullied, and his family requested group associates to donate to #stopbulllying.
That student’s story is just one of quite a few things motivating the college to deal with difficulties this kind of as bullying, mental well being and faculty protection with students right. In the previous year, Caribou High College personnel hosted guest speakers from Aroostook’s Homeland Security and juvenile corrections divisions, who talked about the potential risks of cyberbullying.
Previous tumble, the previous principal of Columbine High University, a survivor of the very well known 1999 college capturing, spoke to students on advertising and marketing beneficial peer and grownup connections.
No matter of whether RSU 39 reinstates a source officer in the schools, Mehta said that potent partnerships with Caribou Law enforcement Section and other community organizations will be vital in preventing tragedies and encouraging favourable student-and-grownup relationships.
In a joint statement released this 7 days, Doak and Law enforcement Chief Michael Gahagan talked about a attainable return of the school’s “Lunch with a Caribou Police Officer” plan. They also reported that officers will enable the district assessment its security strategies, make every day protection checks on faculty homes and aid with active shooter education.
Most of all, Gahagan needs learners to have beneficial associations with community law enforcement and see them as a regular element of their neighborhood.
“Even now I have an officer who’s reading through to youngsters [at Caribou Community School],” Gahagan said. “Any time students can have a constructive conversation with an officer is a excellent detail. [It shows that] things are not often like what you see on Tv.”