Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Five Lives

Over the past few weeks, there have been several sad events related to students and staff in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
First there was Pioneer student Michael Jefferson's sudden collapse and death.
Then Huron student Anna Maria List died, following an assault by her ex-boyfriend.
Kisha French, a lunch room supervisor at Ann Arbor Open and a mom of a Haisley student, was strangled, most likely as she broke up with her boyfriend.
A Pioneer student tried to commit suicide by jumping off an overpass.
A Logan student, Mark Ragheb, died in a car crash.

First of all, I am in no way saying that any of these are the fault of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Rather, I think they provide an opportunity to review policies and actions. It's bad timing that these all happened in a few short weeks, but it does lend some urgency to my questions. There are several areas to look at. Working backwards--how was the crisis response after the fact? For the student who died in the school, how was the crisis response during the event? And last, but definitely not least, what kind of prevention activities are going on around domestic violence and suicide?

If you want to see the AAPS Crisis Handbook, here is the 2007-2008 version. On paper, it looks pretty good. What was your experience of the implementation? After Kisha French's death, crisis team members were at Ann Arbor Open, but I also heard that after Michael Jefferson's death at Pioneer, some students were not informed before the end of the day. I'm also not clear how long the crisis team support goes on for (what if kids don't react for a few weeks, for instance?).

Regarding the handling of a student's suddenly feeling ill, was the response fast enough? I read that the AAPS says it was, and the students' family feels it wasn't. It may have been fast, but I would ask a different question--is there anything that could have been done differently that might have led to a different result? And if so, what was it? I know I'd rather have the ambulance come 99 times for kids who don't need it, in order to prevent the one time that someone did need it.

Regarding domestic violence and suicide, I found a few links to resources on the AAPS web site. I didn't find anything about training, policies, or interventions.
I'm sure DV and suicide are part of the health curriculum, but a week of health class in the life of a high school student is not much (and many students don't take health until 11th or 12th grade).

NOW is a good time for AAPS to review its policies, for staff and students, around domestic violence and suicide prevention. Do students and staff know where to turn if they feel threatened? Is there a process if a staff person is worried she or he is being stalked? Even a temporary, non-union staff person, as Kisha French was? Is information shared at trainings, orientations, publicly? Are there, for instance, posters in the bathrooms about domestic violence and how to get help? Are counselors and social workers there to help the seriously depressed student?
And by the way, if you need the information, here is the link to Safe House Center. The hotline is 734-995-5444.
Here is the link to Ozone House. The hotline is 734-662-2222.

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