When I was teaching at WLES, there were several instances where students, as young as 5, were taken home by the school resource officer in the back of a police car. In each case the child was having a very bad day and the classroom teacher called the vice principal or dean of students for help. If the situation with the child continues to escalate and a parent is not able to come to the school, they sometimes turn to the school resource officer. It doesn’t matter how kind and compassionate the resource officer is, a young child being taken home by a police officer in the back of a police car is not a good experience. I’ve heard other children ask the next day “what were you arrested for?” As a community, we don’t want children to have their first experience with the police on their worst day at school. For a kid, a ride in a police car should be a reward not a punishment.
An issue I am passionate about is the need for social workers in our schools. They are better equipped to help students who are dealing with serious issues. There are students in our schools with very difficult situations at home. Some students struggle with negative interactions with other students. I am especially concerned about our students’ mental health. Depression and anxiety can affect children at all ages. School social workers have the specialized training to help students deal with all these issues and are often called on to go into the home to address the underlying causes.
The Labor Department reports that there are about 45,500 school social workers employed in elementary or secondary schools in the US. That means that more than 1 out of every 3 schools in the US employs a school social worker. In addition to responding to immediate situations, they provide counseling to students, their families, and school staff and can help with issues of racism, bullying, and abuse. I found it heartbreaking to read through the many stories of students who have faced discrimination in our schools. I believe that a school social worker is part of the answer.