Community members address board about suicide prevention
Joplin Globe - 3/28/2018
March 28--Four Joplin residents, including a Joplin High School student and a mother of students in the district, on Tuesday night asked the Joplin Board of Education to support a "walk-up movement" they said would combat bullying, promote mental health and, potentially, reduce student suicides.
The idea, according to the presenters, is to encourage students and faculty of all grade levels to seek out those who appear disconnected from others in the school, simply walk up to them, and try to establish a connection and relationship.
"Really the walk-up is just common courtesy, you know, and basic kindness is all it is," said Charlie McGrew, who said he has grandchildren in Joplin schools. "There's nothing profound about it, but it can have some profound effects. You see a student sitting by themselves in the lunchroom, they sit that way every day, just very simply go up and offer to sit with them or bring them into your group. You see somebody that's obviously a loner and having some problems, just be friendly, you know? Again, just basic kindness and common courtesy."
Lexi Daniell, a Joplin High School student who also addressed the board, said she has suffered from prevalent bullying in the school system. She said she believes encouraging the walk-up movement will make things better.
"I feel like this walk-up will stop the suicides," she said. "I hope that it will make a difference and that it will brighten someone's day, it will change someone's mind when they go home if they're feeling bad about something, that they will continue the chain and go on to someone else that they feel bad or lonely and continue on."
Cathy Lamb told the board her children have been bullied in Joplin schools and that she hopes that getting support for the walk-up effort from the district administration and board will transform it into a "lifestyle."
"As a parent, it's concerning when your kids come home at the end of the day and tell you that they don't know why they're alive," she said. "They don't want to live anymore. And that's just, you know, there are too many students who feel that way and carry that act out, who don't get to have the future that they should have. And that's all, these students are in school to learn about the future. They should not have to go home at the end of the day and feel like school's not a safe place for them."
Board members applauded the residents' efforts and remarks, with at least one moved close to tears. Sharrock Dermott struggled to collect his emotions but pledged that the board's safety committee, on which he sits, will take steps to combat the problems.
"We will address it," he said, drawing applause from the meeting's audience.
Even before the members of the public raised the issues, the board heard a presentation from Sandra Cantwell, director of student services, on various mental health and counseling efforts the district is currently undertaking. She said memorandums of understanding are in the works both with Ozark Center and Missouri Southern State University in Joplin for various services, both of which she said presented "no-cost opportunity" for the district.
Cantwell also said the district has recently launched the Joplin Schools Mental Health Task Force to assess the issues internally. That task force is made up of mental health professionals from the community, district administrators, counselors and others.
"We can't fix everything, but we can be a part of the solution," she said.
The Joplin School Board also approved the adoption of a new math program for the district's middle schools and a change order to the Joplin Early Childhood Center construction contract.
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