Previously, I had been working as a school social worker in the Chicagoland area. These suggestions and strategies are based both on my experiences as a school social worker as well as relevant reading and research.
The “triumph” during these last two school years was found in the little victories that I witnessed. I found myself falling back on the basics of social work, breaking down barriers, respecting the client and family, looking at situations that were fraught with difficulty, and continually finding new ways to help students succeed.
An important aspect of this professional development should include how to respond if a student approaches an adult for help. In addition, a coordinated approach through a single provider can further the adoption of a shared vocabulary across the entire school community, an important aspect of a high-quality Tier 1 program.
Considering that 31% of high school students reported having symptoms of depression in a given year, early identification of those students is imperative. Teaching about depression allows all students the opportunity to learn about the signs and symptoms and teaches them important help-seeking skills.
SSW data did that. It wasn’t politicking, petitions, or a serious legal issue that moved the hand of the district- it was data on my SSW practice. Using a well thought-data collection system that was matched by the visual representations extracted-turned advocacy into action, and eventually results.
Schools, although sites of victimization, often are places where students feel safe to express their sexual and gender identities and receive mental health support and services. With the shift to remote learning, many LGBTQ+ are spending more time at home. Students who are not out to their families are experiencing increased stress related to concealing aspects of their identity and students who are out but do not receive support from their family are facing rejection and harassment (Salerno, Devadas, Pease, Nketia, & Fish, 2020).
The school-to-prison pipeline is a system that currently harms our students, and we can do something about it. School social workers have the knowledge and skills – as well as an ethical commitment – to see it eliminated.