Area professionals continue working to improve school safety

January 4, 2023

A sheriff’s deputies guards the entrance to Mason County Reformed Church.

Area professionals continue working to improve school safety

Behavioral Threat Assessment Training on January 17

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press.

Schools have always focused on teaching the three Rs – Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic.

But over the last few years, scattered incidents of school violence safety have caused safety and security to be another important area of focus for school leaders.

”Is it even safe for me to go to school today?” is a question some students unfortunately now ask themselves, said Susan Stendel, a certified trauma specialist. “Students see the news. School shootings didn’t use to happen. But just because there aren’t any simple answers, doesn’t mean we can’t try to help”

Stendel is excited about an upcoming Behavioral Assessment Management training that brings school, law enforcement, mental health and hospital officials together throughout the West Shore ESD to increase the safety of students and staff our schools.

With the assistance of members from the ESD’s administrative team, Special Education Supervisor Amanda Unger is organizing the training day which will be held at the West Shore Community College on January 17.

Dr. Melissa Reeves

As the mental health supervisor for Mason and Oceana counties (District 10), Stendel plans to send the therapists from her team to the event. She said she is excited to learn from Dr. Melissa Reeves again.

Reeves was recently a presenter in August at Wexford Intermediate School District and will guide the WSESD-sponsored January 17 training.

“The August training was excellent and I’m glad we’re expanding it,” said Stendel. “Dr. Reeves nails down the issues in an impactful way and it’s beneficial to bring a wide range of professionals  together.”

Several supports for students are already in place. For example, small scale mental health clinics are now offered within several area local schools.

The therapists in the school-based clinics aren’t school employees, but the facts they are onsite and readily available to students is paying dividends.

Chief Deputy Chad Hurrle of Lake County Sheriff’s Office praised what the WSESD and Unger are trying to accomplish. “The Behavioral Threat Assessment training partnership taking place in our region is bringing solutions to the table,” he said.

As a law enforcement professional with more than 16 years’ experience as a community resource officer in Baldwin Community Schools, Hurrie said he appreciates the partnership’s potential.

“Everyone wins when improved communications and trust are established with both kids and parents,” he said. “With better awareness of the situations our students and families face, educators, law officers, and mental health professionals can team up and provide crucial support.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Mark Platt, superintendent of Hart Public Schools. “No matter how good the intentions, coordination and teamwork of this kind doesn’t happen randomly. I’m grateful for the commitment everyone is giving to this new initiative.”

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