School News

Valley Stream schools take proactive approach to mental health


Mental health has been a prime topic of discussion since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings a month ago. Valley Stream school officials say they take a proactive approach when it comes to the mental health of its students, and also work to provide support for families.

Each of the four districts have numerous mental health professionals, whether it be psychologists, socials workers or a combination of the two. There are also numerous support groups and contacts with outside mental health agencies.

District 24 has four psychologists and two social workers, and each of its three elementary schools has two-full time support staff members. In addition to providing mandated counseling services, they also are available to meet with any student as needed, and lead the peer mediation and bully prevention programs, test anxiety and divorce support groups and provide grief counseling.

“We actually have quite a lot for a small district,” said Vanessa Myers, the director of special education.

In District 13, there are five psychologists and two socials workers — one of whom is bilingual — who support the four elementary schools. Lisa Sells-Asch, the assistant superintendent for special services, says in addition to supporting the students directly, they help the teachers provide emotional support for students. “Anytime that there is a community crisis, or the horrible thing with Sandy Hook, or the storm, we take a district-wide, proactive approach,” she said.

District 30 has three full-time psychologists to support its three elementary schools. Nicole Schimpf, the director of special services, said they are assigned to buildings based on student needs. She said the psychologists work with both special education and general education students, and typically take the lead in creating and enacting a crisis management plan. They lead various support groups, the peer mediation program, work with principals on disciplinary issues and are involved in the planning the district’s social and emotional curriculum.

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