Talking safety at U-CF

A program up for consideration by the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors got an airing out during the board’s April 9 work session. The program "Say Something," through Sandy Hook Promise, is designed to help students and adults understand the need for reporting "acute issues and concerns in real time and without any fear of reprisal," according to Leah Reider, the director of special education.

Reider and Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Nolen made the presentation to the board.

Data received during several surveys indicate the need for such a program. Reider said a report from 2015 indicated that 20 percent or more of Unionville High School students had considered suicide, 15 percent or more had planned suicide, 33 percent or more had felt depressed and more than 10 percent had engaged in self-harm.

"This is information we feel requires a response from the district," Reider said.

Nolen said the goal, simply, is to keep the schools safe, and that the program focuses on looking for warning signs, signals and threats, to take those warning signs seriously, to act on them immediately and to get students to say something to a trusted adult.

"Those are things we’ve supported for many years… and will continue to promote," he said.

What’s new to the program, Nolen said, is an anonymous reporting system. He explained that to be a 24-hour system that students and parents may use via phone, website or app. He also said the program aligns well with current district curricula and support structures and that the administration is recommending implementing the program beginning the next school year for a three-year period.

Reider said mental health workers would evaluate the tips, do a triage-type prioritization, and district personnel would then respond appropriately to the need.

The topic arose during the public comment period before it came up as an agenda item. Jennifer Brown, of Chadds Ford and a member of district’s Wellness Committee, supports Say Something as a gun violence prevention program.

"I feel like our district is very well prepared to react if something does happen but, as we’ve seen recently when something does happen, no matter how well prepared you are, the impact is unimaginable."

She mentioned the shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School and others including the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida saying, "The data shows the common thread is that there were warning signs that were either not understood, that were not taken seriously, or they weren’t acted upon…It’s up to [everyone in the school community] to recognize these and act appropriately. That’s an achievable goal."

The board is expected to vote in May on whether to adopt the program.


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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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