Alert Solutions Blog

K-12 Schools Must Address Student Mental Health Concerns After 2 Parkland Survivor Suicides

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 04, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

There is nothing more upsetting than switching on the T.V. or radio to hear about a devastating school shooting. In 2018, thirty-five people in the U.S. died in school shootings, with many losing their lives in the February 14th shooting in Parkland Florida. That number doesn’t include the 79 people injured during these country-wide school shootings, and the many more that were deeply affected and are living with mental health issues. These student mental health concerns include PTSD and depression due to survivor’s guilt and the heartbreaking loss of friends and faculty.

Student Mental Health

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred just over a year ago, yet the Parkland community continues to mourn over the effects of that tragedy. Within just one week, two Parkland survivors took their own lives.  Sydney Aiello, a 19-year-old graduate and a senior at the time of the mass shooting, died of an apparent suicide after struggling with PTSD and survivors guilt after living through the deaths of her classmates. The second survivor who committed suicide has been identified as 16-year-old sophomore, Calvin Desir. These suicides have shaken the community to the core, and have prompted people to take a closer look at the well-being of students and their mental health.

According to the Cut, “this is not the first time we’ve seen the toll of experiencing the trauma of a school shooting can take.” After the Columbine incident, a student and a mother of a student who was injured both took their own lives, and six students attempted suicide after a tragic school shooting in Ohio that left three students dead.

3 Student Mental Health Concerns to Look Out For

The Daily Beast explains, “Witnessing a school shooting is especially traumatic given the malleable shape of the brain of school children. Younger pupils are developing foundational skills that will allow them to learn more complex skills, while older students are balancing emotional and intellectual maturation through puberty.” With this being said, there are a few student mental health concerns educators, school administrators, and parents should be looking out for after a school shooting or school tragedy.

Multiple triggers such as smells, sounds, or even a memorial, could initiate a downward spiral for somebody who is suffering from depression, PTSD, or “survivor’s guilt”. Below each are defined:

Depression:
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is defined as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” If you notice your students no longer care about their coursework, are absent often, and are uncharacteristically withdrawn, they may be experiencing depression or another mental health disorder.

PTSD:
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is common for those who have witnessed gun violence. It is defined as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” According to The Daily Beast, PTSD affects the area in the brain that processes stress and emotion, which is why many survivors report to feeling “numb” and are unable to respond in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

Survivor’s Guilt:
According to the Cut, survivor’s guilt by itself is not a diagnosis. It is a phenomenon that occurs involving the belief or question about one’s worth and one’s value. Students may ask “why did I survive when other people did not?” Or “why did I deserve to live and others did not?” Survivor’s guilt triggers these questions and students can blame themselves for not doing something more to save a friend or faculty member. These distortions are often linked to mood changes and depression, and are associated directly with PTSD.

Teachers and school administrators spend the most time with school-aged children who may be suffering from depression or PTSD after a detrimental tragedy.

Alert Solutions recommends keeping open communication with both students and their parents as often as possible, so teachers and administrators can effectively address a student’s mental health concern. Keeping a lookout for any signs or symptoms of depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue is extremely important.Sharing any and every concern could end up saving a life.

Rave Mobile Safety recently acquired Alert Solutions, which allows us to share new school safety products such as the Rave Panic Button. The Rave Panic button allows users to alert 9-1-1 of an emergency and simultaneously send notifications to people on-site of the incident with just the push of a button. It has been proven to shorten response times, which could be a matter of life or death in school shooter situation.

Interested in learning more? Feel free to schedule a free consultation today.

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Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

Why K-12 Schools Should Take Student Mental Health Seriously

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Mental health awareness is a topic being discussed more often, and it’s a conversation many need to have. Mental health conditions are becoming more prominent in students around the teenage and adolescent ages, with many experiencing this onset by the age of 14.

Student Mental Health - Student Taking ExamThe National Alliance on Mental Health shares startling statistics, such as one in five youths currently live with a mental health condition, and less than half of these individuals do not receive any services for their condition. “Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”

K-12 schools are the place the majority of young people spend their days. It’s extremely important that school teachers and administrators educate themselves on student mental health and make sure their students are getting the help they need.  NAMI explains school personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs in students who are experiencing an emerging mental health condition. Once identified, students should be connected with effective services and support.

Common Student Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and students begin to battle these issues at a young age.  Many mental health disorders impact everyday life, making it difficult for students to focus entirely on schoolwork. Some of the common mental disorders are listed below, with the help from Teen Mental Health.

  • Anxiety disorders are classified as disturbances in brain mechanisms that are designed to protect a person from harm. Below are the types of anxiety disorders:
    • General Anxiety Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • Specific Phobias
  • Mood disorders are classified as disturbances in usual mood states. Below are a two common mood disorders:
    • Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly referred to as Clinical Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders are classified as maladaptive personal characteristics. Below are several personality disorders:
    • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
    • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Narcissistic
    • Fear Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorders are classified as disturbances of weight and feeding behavior. A few eating disorders to look out for include:
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating Disorder
  • There are many more mental health disorders listed by Teen Mental Health. Click here for more.

Understanding the Impact of Student Mental Health

As the first line of defense, educators must understand the importance of student mental health, and the impact it has on young people. Unfortunately, when a young adult is faced with a mental health disorder, they often don’t address or treat it until a later age. Student mental health disorders correlate with low achievement, disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and even dropping out of school altogether.

As the first signs of a mental health disorder usually present themselves around the age of 14, teachers who interact with students this age should begin to keep an eye out for any behavior that appears to signify mental illness so that they’re able to get the help they need.

How to Spot & Address Student Mental Health Concerns

There are a few indicators to look out for when considering student mental health. If you see a student withdrawing, being unsocial, lacking self-confidence, or acting out of character, they may need help.

Nancy Barile, an award-winning teacher, started to notice that one of her students was not herself. She explains this student was always punctual when it came to classes and homework, was meticulous with her appearance and was always friendly. When Nancy noticed she no longer tried with her school work, was showing up to school disheveled and wearing the same clothes, and was uncharacteristically withdrawn, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Luckily there were mental health experts ready to help. Nancy explains, “They discovered that (this student) was depressed and suicidal, and she needed an immediate psychiatric intervention. She was hospitalized for a period of time, but she was able to return to my classroom a few months later. With the help of medication and therapy, she managed to graduate with her class.”

This is an important example of how teachers and administrators can spot a problem and effectively address a student’s mental health concern.

Having open communication and informative conversations about these tough subjects is extremely important, as it could save a student’s life. 

Alert Solutions works with many K-12 districts and schools across the country, all of which should be aware of the importance of student mental health. Sharing information internally and externally with students, teachers and parents will help keep everybody informed and engaged in the topic of student mental health awareness. This can easily be done through blogging, social media, and with a school notification platform such as SwiftK12.

Interested in learning more about SwiftK12? Download our brochure below.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

Diversity in Education: The Importance for Today’s Students

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Feb 19, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

It’s a known fact that a positive school culture directly correlates with student success, which is why including and celebrating diversity in K-12 education is extremely important. Diversity can be defined as the inclusion of different types of people. This includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and religion. The first step for teachers when introducing diversity in the classroom is to determine how each student is unique.

Diversity in Education Students

Although it may seem straight forward to expect educators to provide students the opportunity to learn about different cultures and languages, there are some growing challenges teachers and administrators face when trying to introduce diversity in school.

The National Education Association explains that academic achievement gaps between students of diverse backgrounds, gender inequalities and sex discrimination, bullying and harassment of students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and respecting students of all religious backgrounds are all murky waters teachers have found difficult to navigate. As these topics are sensitive for many, it is a daunting task to suggest bringing these differences into the classroom. The NEA also states “Institutional hurdles such as high-stakes testing and the lack of resources for "nonessential" subjects make addressing the issue of diversity even more challenging.”

Bringing cultural and sensitive topics into the classroom can give your students a sense of belonging, and this sense of belonging has a domino effect. Excite Education claims “if a student doesn’t feel like they belong, or that they aren’t valued for who they are, they’re less likely to have any interest in being involved in the class.” A student who does not feel included is likely to show a decrease in participation and short attention span, both of which do not lead to academic success. 

How to Promote Diversity in Education

  1. Understand Your Students
    Every student in your classroom is different, which is why understanding each of them as an individual is important. Take time to look at their strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, relationships with other students, and their learning styles. Doing this will show your students that you’re invested in them, and that you care. Like mentioned above, investing your time in getting to know your students will give them a sense of belonging, and in turn they will be present in class and more likely to participate.

  2. Challenge Diversity Stereotypes
    There are a lot of unfair stereotypes out there for several cultural backgrounds. Instead of avoiding the subject all together, consider challenging these stereotypes in a sensitive way. Tes Education states “these topics should not be avoided and evidence suggests that learning to challenge stereotypes in one significant domain (e.g., gender) can also translate to others (e.g., race or religion).” It’s also encouraged to bring in teaching material that represents the rich diversity of the world. Include material that shows many different perspectives and exposes students to a variety of diverse cultures.

  3. Celebrate Diversity & Culture
    Teachers should encourage diversity in education by celebrating each student’s culture and individual diverse background. A simple way to do this is targeted seating plans. Maybe switch up the classroom and promote cooperative learning activities that prompt students to interact with a neighbor they may not speak to often. Another way to promote diversity in school is to have all of your students present and share stories about their family history and heritage. Tes Education suggests trying different kinds of food together, or marking festivals as a class. Your students could showcase their diversity in a picture presentation, play, or even a short movie project. Make it fun, educational and inclusive – and don’t forget to involve parents!

At Alert Solutions we appreciate the hard work teachers put in when educating the students of today. Introducing suggestions on how to include diversity in education is just one way we can help our customers.

For more helpful resources, check out our Education Resource Center for tips, tricks, and strategies!

 Education Resource Center

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, student engagement, school culture, school climate

Improving Student Behavior in K-12 Schools – 3 New Approaches to Classroom Management

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 16:05 PM

School administrators are always looking for alternative ways to improve student behavior in the classroom. More and more attention is being paid to changing student thinking through mindfulness, social and emotional learning, and restorative justice.

Here is a brief overview of these three new clasroom management approaches to improving student behavior:

1. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)classroommanagement.jpg
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) focuses on five core competencies:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management
  • Responsible Decision Making

If school administrators want to improve student behavior and reduce conflict, it is critical for them to encourage students to improve in these areas – especially empathy, self-awareness and conflict resolution. These skills will allow students to be more aware of others and their own responses to situations.

2. Mindfulness
New research shows that mindfulness in the classroom works. Some data specifically shows it improves student behavior and reduces brain activity related to aggression. Since implementing a specific time for mindfulness each day and a mindfulness center rather than a detention room, schools in Baltimore have seen better student academic achievement and improved attendance rates.

3. Restorative Justice (RJ)
Restorative justice is an alternative to traditional discipline like detention, suspension or expulsion.  Restorative justice approaches include community conferencing, peer juries, peer mediation. One way school administrators can introduce RJ into the classroom is by having students write a ‘respect agreement’ including how they will treat other students and the teacher in a positive way.

Did You Know? Research shows that regular teacher-parent communication decreases behavior corrections by 25%. Try using a school notification system to maintain routine communication with parents using their preferred method of communication: voice calls, emails, SMS text messages or social media.

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent communication, student engagement, school culture, school climate

Only 1 in 3 Students View School Culture Positively, Survey Shows

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 07, 2017 @ 12:03 PM

A recent survey conducted by YouthTruth revealed that only 1 in 3 students had positive feedback in terms of school culture. The data was collected from more than 80,000 students in grades six through 12 over a three year time period.

The survey also revealed:

  • Students recognize their peers are less respectful to adults than adults are to them.
  • Only 37% of middle school students rated school culture positively.
  • Less than half of students feel that discipline at their school is fair.
  • Only 30% of high school students rated school culture positively.

What does this mean? Well, school culture is built on a foundation of respect and positive relationships that contribute to a positive school climate.education-1.jpg

A large amount of research shows that when schools focus on improving school climate, they see a lot of positive outcomes, including:

1. Higher Student Engagement
2. Lower Teacher Turnover
3. Fewer Behavioral Disruptions
4. Improved Student Achievement
5. Increased Teacher Satisfaction

Many say effective school communication is at the heart of creating a positive school culture.  Keeping parents, students and staff members engaged in what is going on in the school ensures the entire community feels connected.

How do you engage your school community? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school culture, school climate

Teacher Retention Rates – Is K-12 School Climate a Factor?

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 @ 10:11 AM

Researchers from Brown University surveyed 100 middle school teachers in New York City and found only 85 were expected to return to the same school the next year – that’s a 15% turnover rate. Why?

Well, many teachers say school climate has a huge impact on their decision to stay at a school or not, which consists of:parentteacher1.jpg

  • Student Academic Expectations
  • School Safety
  • Professional Development Opportunities

K-12 schools are more likely to have high teacher retention rates if school administrators:

1. Encourage Professional Development
Effective teachers stay when they are led by school administrators that promote professional development. Encouraging teacher collaboration and focusing on individualized coaching can produce results.

2. Increase School Safety
In less than a generation, k-12 schools have entered a complex world of new security concerns. Not only do teacher work better in an environment where they feel safe, students can concentrate on learning! Make sure you’re school has a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan in place and teacher, school administrators, students and parents are aware of it.

3. Improve Student Academic Achievement
Parent engagement is a huge factor in a student’s academic success. Teachers play a vital role in engaging parents through effective communication. Studies prove teacher-family communication immediately increases student engagement as measured by homework completion rates and class participation. Be sure to provide teachers the parent communication tools they need.

A healthy school climate promotes productive teachers and goal-oriented students. Do you agree?

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement, school culture, school climate

School Climate Linked to Teacher Retention and Student Achievement, Says Survey

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

A new report from New York University’s Research Alliance for NYC Schools found that school climate is directly correlated to things like teacher retention rates and student achievement.

The report was based on 31,000 responses from teacher surveys between 2008 and 2012 and considered four measures of school climate.Schoolclimate.jpg

The study tracked school climate over time and compared them with school data on teacher retention rates and student test scores.

Result: Researchers from NYU found that if a school improved from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile across all four measures of school climate teacher turnover would decline by 25 percent.

A similar percentile increase in measures of school safety and high academic expectations alone boosted student math scores enough to account for an extra month and a half of instruction.

It makes sense, right? In the past we’ve shared studies that link school bullying and teacher involvement with student academic achievement. Even student attendance rates!

The researchers say these findings could help shift the debate about what factors are most important in boosting student achievement.

To learn more about the study, click here.

Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school culture, school climate

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