Low­ell moves to re­duce bul­ly­ing

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By RICK SOBEY Rick Sobey is a re­porter for the Low­ell Sun. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @rsobeyLSun.

The Low­ell School Dis­trict, which has ex­pe­ri­enced a stu­dent sui­cide this school year, has taken sev­eral steps to ad­dress bul­ly­ing, men­tal health and sui­cide aware­ness in re­cent years, said act­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Jean­nine Durkin.

Durkin said the school sys­tem is con­tin­u­ally study­ing ways to im­prove its cur­ricu­lum in all ar­eas, in­clud­ing bul­ly­ing preven­tion.

She re­sponded to ques­tions in the wake of the death of 16year-old Low­ell High School stu­dent Anna As­la­nian, who made the de­ci­sion to take her own life in Oc­to­ber.

Anna wrote in a let­ter that she was bul­lied, and her fam­ily is stress­ing the school sys- tem must make im­prove­ments to pre­vent this tragedy from hap­pen­ing to other fam­i­lies.

Her fam­ily rec­om­mended the dis­trict im­ple­ment an anony­mous pro­gram for stu­dents to come for­ward and speak with a pro­fes­sional when they have prob­lems.

“In ac­cor­dance with Mass. state laws on bul­ly­ing, the Low­ell Pub­lic Schools in­cludes pro­ce­dures for stu­dents, fam­i­lies, staff and oth­ers to re­port in­ci­dents of bul­ly­ing in­clud­ing a process to sub­mit such in­for­ma­tion anony­mously and with pro­tec­tion from re­tal­i­a­tion,” Durkin said. “Our bul­ly­ing re­port­ing form which is avail­able on­line and in schools has a pro­vi­sion for anony­mous re­port­ing.”

Durkin said that be­fore the 2014-15 school year, the dis­trict re­ceived the Youth Men­tal Health First Aid Grant. As a re­sult, the dis­trict was able to teach par­ents, fam­ily mem­bers, care­givers, teach­ers, school staff, peers, neigh­bors, health and hu­man ser­vices work­ers and oth­ers how to help an ado­les­cent who is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health or ad­dic­tion chal­lenge.

The course in­tro­duces com­mon men­tal health chal­lenges for youth, re­views typ­i­cal ado­les­cent de­vel­op­ment, and teaches a five-step ac­tion plan for how to help young peo­ple in both cri­sis and non­cri­sis sit­u­a­tions. Top­ics in­clude anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, sub­stance use, dis­or­ders in which psy­chosis may oc­cur, dis­rup­tive be­hav­ior dis­or­ders and eat­ing dis­or­ders.

In ad­di­tion, Durkin said the dis­trict has en­sured that all li­censed staff were pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in a two-hour sui­cide aware­ness/preven­tion train­ing in re­sponse to Sec­tion 12 of An Act Rel­a­tive to the Re­duc­tion of Gun Vi­o­lence. This re­quires all pub­lic school dis­tricts and com­mon­wealth char­ter schools to pro­vide at least two hours of sui­cide aware­ness and preven­tion train­ing ev­ery three years to all li­censed school per­son­nel.

The Low­ell dis­trict gave the Mak­ing Ed­u­ca­tors Part­ners in Youth Sui­cide Preven­tion Train­ing to all staff be­gin­ning at the start of the 2016-17 aca­demic school year. The web-based train­ing was de­vel­oped by the So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Teen Sui­cide, and was ap­proved by the Mas­sachusetts De­part­ment of El­e­men­tary and Sec­ondary Education. Prin­ci­pals and ad­min­is­tra­tors were di­rected to make cer­tain that all li­censed staff com­pleted the train­ing be­fore Oct. 31, 2016, with fol­low-up sched­uled in ac­cor­dance with the leg­is­la­tion.

PA­TRICK WHITTEMORE / HER­ALD STAFF FILE

DO­ING WHAT THEY CAN: Low­ell High School and other schools in the dis­trict have been giv­ing all staff at least two hours of web-based youth sui­cide preven­tion train­ing, which they all com­pleted in 2016, with reg­u­lar fol­low-ups sched­uled.

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