A school should assume more responsibility than solely the academic success of its students.
That idea has materialized in several federal bills passed within the previous 10 years. Georgia schools are responsible for spreading mandatory suicide awareness, advisement periods for middle school and high school students and sexual abuse prevention as early as kindergarten.
Gwinnett County Public Schools terms the grouping together of social and personal success with academic success as Social and Emotional Learning. While the school district has complied with state laws, Gwinnett County Board of Education vice chairman Louise Radloff said during Thursday’s work session she’s worried the mental health challenges coming from the community are not being met.
“It’s becoming a very hot topic,” Radloff said.
The school district’s 21st Century Comprehensive Counseling Program is designed by the American School Counselor Association, which assists GCPS counselors in evaluating how the school counseling program impacts for students. The district also provides emergency response teams in crisis situations and education around sexual abuse and suicide prevention. GCPS social workers and school nurses provide SEL support from a health and social services perspective.
The school district is identifying ways it can extend more comprehensive SEL services. Elementary schools currently have not advisement periods. Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt mentioned that as a future consideration for the school district. He also stated the school system is looking to evaluate the best SEL practices by grade level and identify where SEL is occurring in the school district.
He also mentioned the need for more professional development.
“You need to find people trained appropriately,” Flynt said. “That would probably be provided by an external agency.”
GCPS wraparound services provide necessary medical exams such as hearing and vision screening, that directly affect how students learn. There is also food insufficiency support in the form of free-and-reduced lunch. District IV Board of Education Member Everton Blair voiced his desire for the school system to evaluate how to maximize advisement periods and the skills of school counselors as it makes plans to expand programs in the future.
“We have to be smart about the resources we do have,” Blair said.