Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Task force discusses affect of student mental health on school safety

Monday, November 19, 2018 by The Press in Local News

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has announced he called together a Safe Schools Task Force meeting Nov. 1 which was attended by more than 50 county school administrators, resource officers, additional members of law enforcement, representatives from the county Department of Drug and Alcohol, Juvenile Probation and members of the his staff.

The task force is designed to help educators and members of law enforcement meet the challenges they encounter in the schools.

Past meetings have covered topics such as gang activity, sexting, drugs, the juvenile justice system, and school threats.

This gathering dealt with the potential impact of students’ mental health upon school safety.

Various speakers addressed programs that have proven helpful in handling this issue.

Heather Kasarda, Intake and SPORE unit supervisor with Lehigh County Juvenile Probation, gave information about Youth Mental Health First Aid, a program to help identify youth who are having mental health problems or are in crisis.

In addition, the program teaches how to discuss those issues with youth and provides referral sources.

More than 50 people are trained to teach the program in the county, which is offered free to school districts and community groups through the county.

Andria Buchman, director of special education and student services for Southern Lehigh School District, provided information about the Child Study Team program in place in that district.

These teams identify and help students who need assistance, support and possible intervention to deal with their issues, which can include those related to mental health.

Dr. Thomas Mirabella, director of student services for the East Penn School District, discussed Act 44 and the Safe2Say Something program, which is being established by the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Act 44 requires school administrators to appoint a school safety and security Coordinator for their districts.

The Safe2Say Something program is an anonymous tip line, which will be run through the attorney general’s office.

Safe2Say may be contacted via telephone, website or app, beginning in 2019, to report concerns about students who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

“I want to thank Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dimmig for coordinating today’s meeting,” Martin said. “It is part of my office’s continuing effort to foster communication and share information between the various agencies and groups working in and with our schools to ensure a safe environment for students and staff.”