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The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
As we shuffled our way down the aisle to present our Student Suicide Prevention Policy, the gawking eyes were staring lasers at us. I was so nervous that...
I remember shaking my papers while reading them with my nervous yet steady vibration. That awkward walk down the aisle was only the tip of the iceberg of work that me and my team have been tirelessly at for months. My partner, cool and confident started her speech: “Last school year we began the process of creating a student survey. A group of around 25 students brainstormed issues that are faced by students and teachers in our county. We then selected the top issues and created a survey which asked students to rank the importance of those issues to them. Over 450 students responded and the majority of students selected that mental health was of the utmost importance to them.” This process of roughly 12 months of surveys, research and edits were all worth it. The helpful studies from the Trevor Project paired with the model policy provided by the state of Louisiana served as guidelines to help us further edit on the policy, along with the basic requirements from the state of Tennessee. We filtered our policy through mental health professionals as well as community members until we got to the final product we presented on the 12th.
I mentioned earlier how nervous I was but it was much more than that. I was more than prepared with facts and I new the policy through and through. I speak a lot so being in front of large groups isn’t a daunting task. Honestly just being in front of a board full of people who vote on my daily life was a little overwhelming. Combined with the fact that some board members wouldn’t even care about the content of the policy, and would immediately dismiss it based on the organization that sponsors it, my hopes were high but at a plateau.
The presentation itself was exactly what I expected. Watching board meetings monthly helped prepare me for the environment. The room itself was smaller than I expected, which was a little more comforting. It started with a room full to the wall of people, then it dwindled down to just dozens of people after the Signal Mountain exemplars of excellence were presented. I was honestly so scared to be cut off in the middle of speaking that I rushed through my speech. My partner mentioned that “talking to the school board kinda felt like presenting to a pane of glass, you could only see faint responses in the reflection back at you.” I couldn’t have agreed with her more. Their heads were down because they were reviewing our policy as we presented, but their lack of response made them come off as a little disengaged. We do realize we dropped a knowledge bomb on them and only gave them five minutes to absorb it, though. We greatly appreciate the recognition from board member Lennon and her encouraging words. Overall, the presentation was scary but it was worth the tireless effort and I can safely say me and my team members were proud to be apart of this experience. The support and platform provided by the board is an opportunity I will truly cherish years after this policy is revisited or not. Speaking of the revisiting, please urge your board members to vote on revisiting the Hamilton County Suicide Pervention Policy with our revisions!
This month’s Future Ready Update was from the Office of Social Emotional Learning. This update covered rising suicide rates, the climate survery, the Student Success Planning Pilot, and more. The presentation started out with graphs presenting the rising suicide rates amongst students. The graphs also showed that student suicide rates dip during the summer, any guesses why? Two statistics were used from the climate survey to show that students are not receiving the proper social emotional supports to be successful in schools. The most promising and interesting part of the presentation was the Student Success Planning Pilot Program. The pilot has started at 8 elementary and middle schools in Hamilton County.
The pilot consists of teachers taking time to get to know their students, then creating individual plans with the school counselor to help each individual child. There are 3,384 students involved in this program, which each receive a student success plan. These plans are focused on the whole child and involve planning in each of the following areas: social/emotional support, health, family, and academics. In creating these plans they identify problem areas for a specific student and from these they are able to collect data about all of their students.. For example, only 7% of students in the pilot program (237 out of 3,384 students) have healthy sleep habits. This new program is only in its infancy and will continue to grow over time and improve as it gets older. Additionally, there is the potential for community partners to become involved with the program in order to help students with issues identified within the pilot program.
Bye everybody, thanks for sticking with us the past eight months. We hope to see you again in 2020 with good vibes. We will back for the January school board meeting, hopefully with positive updates about the Hamilton County Student Suicide Prevention Policy.