As school districts wrap up a year of distance learning, a challenging undertaking that educators and administrators ultimately overcame, the topic of student mental health remained at the forefront as students suddenly faced unprecedented disconnection from peers, adapted to a virtual platform, and struggled with technological challenges. During a year of isolation and strain for many students, the San Bernardino City Unified School District ramped up its established efforts to ensure the mental and emotional wellbeing of students.
Parent and student surveys were conducted several times throughout the year to gain a deeper understanding of trends and SBCUSD created opportunities for additional personal connections to address individual student needs.
“We use technology to monitor student communication for red flags, conduct welfare checks to homes as needed, and have developed a robust referral system to help students get counseling support,” said Colleen Williams, director of Student Wellness & Support Services. “We’ve also begun the process of training our teachers and staff district-wide in Youth Mental Health First Aid to better equip our team to identify mental health concerns and encourage students to seek help.”
Teachers are trained to identify any mental and emotional issues their students may exhibit, at which point the site counselor will intervene and offer the necessary support to address students’ specific needs.
“All of our site leaders and many teachers have been trained in mindfulness practices, which help them to create a calm environment with their students,” Williams remarked. “Some teachers share mindfulness techniques like breathing exercises to help students discharge stress and negative emotions during class. Students have reported taking these calming exercises home to share with their families as well.”
SBCUSD conducted Operation Student Recovery intermittently through the year to check in on truant students, offer assistance in overcoming barriers preventing school attendance, and provides the opportunity for school staff and volunteers to identify any students in crisis, referring them to the District Counseling Department, Victor Community Support Services, and the Suicide Prevention Line.
“Developing a positive climate and culture at all SBCUSD schools is essential at any time, but it is especially important during the COVID shutdowns that we help our students to develop the social-emotional competencies that will help them weather this storm,” Williams concluded.