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To Prevent Another Stoneman Douglas type incident, Teachers Are Encouraged to Be Alert to Student Behaviors

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To Prevent Another Stoneman Douglas type incident, Teachers Are Encouraged to Be Alert to Student Behaviors

Student mental health disorders are becoming a focal point in avoiding the next school shooting.

Student mental health disorders are becoming a focal point in avoiding the next school shooting.

Student mental health disorders are becoming a focal point in avoiding the next school shooting.

Student mental health disorders are becoming a focal point in avoiding the next school shooting.

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As the stigmas surrounding mental disorders are slowly being stripped away, many discussions concerning the topic have recently come under debate. One such situation is the role that teachers play when observing potential concerning behaviors from students. Protocol in this area does exist, but only to a certain extent.  

The rules are clear if a teacher suspects a student may be the victim of abuse or neglect. According to chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, any person who has knowledge of or suspects that a minor is being abused or neglected by anyone responsible for that individual’s welfare should immediately make a report to the Florida Abuse Hotline or Department of Children and Families (DCF). This rule applies in all schools to all staff members.

Not only are teachers expected to understand this responsibility, but failure to report the suspected abuse is a punishable offense. In 2012, House Bill 1355 passed in which it was stated that if a person holds the knowledge of potential abuse and fails to report it, it is to be considered a third degree felony with up to a five year sentence attached. Evidently, lawmakers are doing what is possible by the judicial system to ensure that no child’s abuse goes without mention if others around sense that the child is in danger.

However, the rules are not as black and white for a teacher’s course of actions if a student’s mental health seems to be in question. One of the many roles of a teacher is to listen and look for signs of trouble. This can relate to much more than physical abuse, and as mental health issues become increasingly prominent amongst adolescents in schools, teacher’s have much more to be on the lookout for.

If a teacher does notice that a student’s mental state could lead to that student to harm others or him or herself, there are many potential courses of action that can be taken, but as every circumstance varies, it is impossible to name one as the overarching policy in schools.

Olympic Heights assistant principal Mr. Frank D’Annunzio explains that teachers are to follow the same procedures as students would in regards what steps should be taken. For both teachers and students alike, D’Annunzio believes that “If you see something or you hear something, you should say something.”

D’Annunzio says this policy is mentioned at faculty meetings to ensure that teachers understand that they are expected to speak up and contact an administrator if certain situations present themselves. D’Annunzio also mentions that since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting this past February, the “volume of the inquiries from teachers about a student have increased.”

Often, in our society, recognition of mental health issues comes only after a major event prompts others to pay more attention, and while staff members have noticed certain elements in the past, their consideration of students’ mental states are much more prominent.

World Mental Health Day, as named by the World Health Organization, takes place on October 10, and each and every time this date passes, the shame that is tacked onto the idea of a mental health issue is slowly being ripped away. This past year, countless celebrities took to social media to address their own mental health, hoping to inspire others to share their stories and allowing others to recognize that anyone can fight a battle against their own self and come out on top.

Demi Lovato, Jennifer Aniston, James Franco, Prince Harry, and several others made their own pain public to benefit others, each proving that mental health issues are something to be faced and tackled, not ignored.

As more and more people are being made aware of the potential implications of mental health issues, schools are doing all they can to avoid another catastrophe and ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to give each and every student the best chance for personal success.

With this comes an increase in awareness, higher levels of education for staff members on how to handle certain situations, and readiness to approach these circumstances head on. D’Annunzio points out that teachers spend a great deal of time building rapport with their students, and because of this, teachers have the right, responsibility, and reasoning to bring to administration’s attention any noticeable signs in students that promote uneasiness and that should be addressed as early as possible.

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To Prevent Another Stoneman Douglas type incident, Teachers Are Encouraged to Be Alert to Student Behaviors