Together with the Ombudsman, Jumaane Williams, they launch a working group to promote strategies against trauma in New York schools
Photo: Edwin Martínez / Impremedia
New York City schools are already preparing for a full return to school after the worst of the COVID pandemic, with the start of the new school year in September. And beyond the academic and infrastructure plans, community leaders, activists, teachers and students are calling for the Education deparment, so that it integrates as a fundamental part, programs focused on strategies against trauma.
And as a way of demanding that schools prioritize the emotional and mental accompaniment of 1.1 million students that is estimated to exist in schools, from the hand of ombudsman Jumaane WilliamsMental health parents, students, educators, advocates and providers created a special task force that in a month will present a report of recommendations that it hopes will be implemented in all schools.
This was announced this Wednesday by the Ombudsman, who asked the school authorities to invest resources now so that when children return to class they can receive attention to the trauma that COVID and multiple previous experiences have left in them, and not punitive practices are promoted.
“We have lost many lives with the COVID pandemic and as a way to honor them, it is not to return to normal, because normal did not work, but we must return better than we were and make sure that the institutions provide our children with resources needed to deal with the trauma ”, said the Ombudsman. “We cannot continue with punitive actions and suspensions, which all they do is increase the trauma … and if there is an opportunity to make changes in the paradigms, this is the right time.”
Practices that traumatize students
Tom shepard, a member of the Education Policy panel, made an urgent call to fight against trauma in schools, giving children, teachers and staff the necessary resources.
“For decades we have seen that healing works in our communities and it is necessary that we understand trauma and how to help our children, removing practices that traumatize students and replacing them with programs focused on healing,” said the activist.
Shepard explained that the first week of July the working group will present a series of recommendations to the schools for their implementation and said that they will hold several virtual meetings with access to all members of the community.
Crystal Reyes, of the organization ‘Sistas and Brothas’, from The Bronx, joined the call and highlighted that especially among Latino and black children there is a lot of trauma that needs to be addressed.
“Our communities have been suffering since before COVID. We have families that have members who have died, others have deported parents, and there are children who have not seen their parents for a long time. This has to be dealt with with healing plans in the schools as well and ending with suspensions and the presence of the police in the schools, ”said the Mexican leader.
DOE will hire 500 social workers
Faced with the demands of the new working group, the City Department of Education (DOE) stated that they are on the same path, and stressed that for several months they have been promoting advances that provide better care in trauma issues to children that make up the 1,700 public schools in the Big Apple.
“We are hiring more than 500 new social workers and adding more than 100 community schools to make sure we have healing-focused schools this fall and that every student has an adult who cares to turn up in crisis ”, assured Nathaniel Styer, spokesman for the DOE. “Creating schools that are safe and welcoming for all students is at the core of this Administration’s work, and we will continue to invest in training, supports and resources for both our staff and our students.”
The official also stressed that as part of the transformation in schools, restorative justice practice plans have been adopted throughout the school system, leading to decreases in police interventions, by approximately 5%, of arrests, in approximately 60%, subpoenas, in about 80% and suspensions they are down by almost 40%.
DOE and the Administration De Blasio defend that they are committed to addressing the emotional trauma left by the pandemic in the school community, not only with students but with staff.
Cristal Reyes, leader of the Bronx organization Sistas and Brothas
As part of that priority, City claims more than 75,000 staff members were trained in Trauma Sensitive Educational Practices (TREP), which seeks that adults who work in schools recognize signs and symptoms of trauma, in order to strengthen the community and promote resilience, with proactive support to the needs of students.
Another of the programs that the DOE currently promotes is a joint plan with NYC Health + Hospitals, that has enabled schools in the 26 neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19 to partner with mental health clinics, where children and adolescents can receive ongoing therapy and psychiatric evaluation.
School tools against trauma in numbers
75,000 staff members were trained in Trauma Sensitive Education Practices 26 neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19 have joint work between schools and mental health clinics 500 and more new social workers are being hired for schools
100 more community schools will focus on trauma healing plans 5% have decreased police interventions since a restorative approach began in schools 60% have decreased arrests of students in schools 80% have decreased citations 40% have almost dropped suspensions
There will be a march and virtual meetings