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UPSD Board Creates Committee to Help Prevent Suicides
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2019-10-02

            Last week, Upper Perkiomen School Board President Kerry Drake announced the creation of an ad hoc committee to help prevent future student suicides. During the Sept. 26 workshop meeting, Drake announced that he will serve on the panel with Vice President Mike Elliot and Judith Maginnis.

            According to Drake, the intent of the committee is to start a discussion with the entire school board and the community to help prevent student deaths. He said the first meeting has not been scheduled.

            "I hope we can use this committee to save lives," Drake said during the Sept. 26 workshop meeting.

            According to the board president, the death of Maryann Dyer, 16, shook the community to its core. He said board members need to do whatever they can to help students understand that suicide is not the only option.

            "I'm really glad we're talking about this subject," Elliot said, adding that the district should embrace multi-faceted solutions. "We should never be satisfied with where we are. I'm looking forward to the committee's work."

            Reading from a prepared statement, Drake said the board and the district should work to create a more supportive culture where individual differences are celebrated, "and where our children feel safe in being different, whatever different might mean." According to the president, district officials should aspire to build and maintain a culture where it is okay to ask for help, and where help is readily available and accessible for any who need it.

            "That is not to say it isn't supportive today, but we should ask ourselves how to improve to be better," Drake said. "One facet of school culture is how we address bullying and prevention.  It has come up a lot in the past few weeks in discussions. There are others, including how we treat others, if we say hello or not in the halls, if we help each other when needed, or if when we see someone is troubled or  in pain, if we reach out and  try to help."

            Andrea Farina, the district's assistant superintendent, discussed efforts to create trauma informed schools, which she described as places that provide safe and supportive environments for children to learn and educators to work. Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as an emotional response to a terrible event.

            The journey to becoming trauma informed is not linear, according to Farina. "There is no timeline," she said during the meeting.

            According to her presentation, district leaders have articulated a commitment to adopting a trauma informed approach, resources have been allocated to support that approach. A trauma informed school has fundamentally changed the way it works to promote healthy, resilient educators and learners capable of disrupting the cycle of trauma in their lives.

            All school members have a baseline understanding of trauma and its impact on students and staff. Processes have been implemented to maintain a trauma enforced workgroup or similar multidisciplinary team.

            One woman told the members that they need to deal with bullying simultaneously. The Pennsburg resident, who told the board her daughter  has been bullied, said the issue may or may not have played a role in Dyer's death.


 

 

 

 

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