A Carbon County organization is working toward addressing behavioral issues in schools.
During a recent meeting of the county Child and Family Collaborative, members looked at what is being done on various levels in the schools to help children and their families.
Two issues, mental health and bullying, were discussed in-depth.
Jeanne Miller, co-chairperson of the collaborative, updated the group on a project that has been in the works for years.
The project brings out-patient therapy into the schools so students could receive the help they need if recommended.
The collaborative collected data from each school district and began a partnership between the districts, MH/MR, and Community behavioral Health.
After a plan was in place, requests for information were sent out to providers in Carbon County.
Miller noted that out-patient therapy will begin in Penn-Kidder Elementary School in the near future. Various types of insurance will be accepted for the services.
No definite start date has been set because authorization from the Department of Public Welfare is required before it can begin. This includes a site visit to make sure all requirements are met at the school.
Miller said that if the program is successful at Penn-Kidder, it may spread into other school districts if the schools want.
On a related matter, the collaborative invited Pat Rushton, outreach and education manager for Victims Resource Center, to present a PowerPoint on bullying.
Rushton started his presentation by defining bullying, which he said is aggressive behavior towards another person that is intentional. This behavior is often repeated.
He also pointed out that in today's society, bullying does not only include physical and verbal bullying. It also includes cyber bullying on social media sites or via text messaging.
If the actions are not confronted by others, that empowers the bully. As a result, the bullied child begins to feel depressed, lonliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and possibly suicidal thoughts.
If a parent or teacher notices one child bullying another child, Rushton said that the adult should address it to make sure the bully knows he or she is being watched.
Never make the student apologize when it in insincere, he added, noting that this will only show the bully that he can get away with it if he apologizes.
An important aspect in combating bullying, Rushton explained, is to help not only the bullied child, but also the bully. Find out what the problem is, let them vent their frustrations, help them recognize their behavior and make them feel safe.
He provided an example of a bullied child who received no help.
In an exercise he does with schools, he asks one person to hold multiple strings. He then hands the other ends of the strings to coworkers. Each string represents a connection between the bullied and a teacher, nurse, guidance counselor, and the bully.
As the bullied asks for help but is turned away, the strings are cut until only one remains the string that connects the bully and the bullied.
Rushton said that this shows that if immediate attention is not given to the problem, it can escalate.
"You put yourself in their shoes," he said of the exercise. "How do you like it? The goal is to get them to stop bullying."
Rushton also provided some tips that teachers and parents can use to help combat bullying.