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Articles: Social Services

Schools are the center of the community and when schools are transformed in positive ways, communities are transformed. The continued rise of poverty is not surprising when policies and practices that could contribute to eliminating poverty are not addressed well. The foundation of systematic oppression is rooted in practices that contribute to a system becoming self-perpetuating because the conditions are institutionalized and habits are formed that are not interrupted.

Comfort dog Addie continues to help Sandy Hook Elementary students heal after the December 2012 shooting.
A student reads to Addie.
Teachers who must stay strong for students are often most in need of the dogs, handlers say.
Addie still visits a different Sandy Hook classroom each day. They help start conversations about hurts or fears among students.
A puppy in training to become a comfort dog takes a rest with an older pal.

Students who have lived through tragedy—from Newtown, Connecticut, to Joplin, Missouri—have found comfort in a source not often seen in schools: golden retrievers.

Boggy Creek Elementary School, which has a high homeless population, celebrates winning a national reading competition.
St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams speaks to clergy members about the how they can help support the district’s homeless students.
Employees at School District U-46 outside Chicago adopted 60 families and purchased presents for nearly 150 homeless students.

Transportation may be the most complex and costly issue. But to keep homeless students from dropping out or falling too far behind in class, administrators have to tapped into federal funds and community donations to provide tutoring, school supplies, extra meals and clothing, among other necessities.

Art therapy involves creating art to help individuals of all ages cope with traumatic experiences and stress, according to the American Art Therapy Association, a national organization whose Connecticut members have been working to assist young people, their families, and the local communities to address the trauma resulting from the Sandy Hook shooting. Above, a drawing from a first grade Sandy Hook student who was at school the day of the shooting.

School psychologists are often the first professionals to reach students with mental illness, and part of their role is to help identify threats that can lead to events such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, including school psychologist Mary Sherlach, who was one of the first responders. But as district budgets are cut and school psychologists retire, their difficult and crucial role working with troubled students may be endangered.

Even before the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ended its 19-month compliance review of potential civil rights violations in the Los Angeles Unified School District, district leaders knew they had to change their program for ELLs and other students.

migrant child worker

There are more than 400,000 migrant children working the fields in 48 states across the United States. They begin working as early as age 12, their days begin as early as 4 a.m. and their home moves wherever the crop season takes them and their families. The backbreaking labor and transient lifestyle causes them to drop out of high school at four times the national rate.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

Over 600,000 low-income elementary students nationwide will be receiving fresh food in the 2011-2012 school year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 23 that it will be expanding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program received a funding increase of $48 million—a nearly 40 percent jump from the previous year—for a total of $158 million in funding. The program, which was established in 2008, supports local farms while also promoting healthy eating habits to impoverished students.

Boston schools are getting a little help for challenged students. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 76 percent of all students qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunches. Although poverty is a proven factor in reducing student achievement, Boston Public Schools is seeing the results of City Connects (CCNX)—its intervention, prevention and enrichment program that, for a decade, has worked with teachers to pair students with community-based services to help students better engage and thrive in school.

Districts are continuing to face many challenges in filing for reimbursement for the Medicaid services they provide to students, according to the 2009 Biennial Survey: Trends and Data released Jan. 25 by the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education (NAME), a nonprofit organization representing state Medicaid and education agencies. The report examines Medicaid reimbursements, primarily over the last decade.

Recently a student named Michael returned from his freshman year at college to visit the principal at his former high school. He is majoring in engineering and is president of the student council at his college. During the summer, he plans to enroll as a mentor for children at a local Boys and Girls Club. By all accounts, Michael is a shining example of academic success and of positive student leadership. To his former principal, Michael's success is particularly meaningful.

In more districts than ever, Response-to-Intervention programs are gaining ground, nipping learning problems in the bud and keeping more students out of special education classes when they truly need intervention, which, of course, is the goal.

Many are aware of the practical implications of sexual harassment of students by school staff, but such situations can also have considerable legal implications, as well.

While the legal aspects of staff-to-student sexual harassment take a back seat to the moral and emotional considerations, the legal framework provides school administrators with a helpful basis for drafting policies, conducting investigations, and making decisions.

The classroom teacher noted changes in eight-year-old Jenny's attendance and behavior. Jenny seemed less motivated to perform in school, her homework was no longer completed, and she was often unkempt and prone to falling asleep in class. The teacher had heard a rumour about Jenny's living situation but did not want to pry into her private life.

As a student at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in North Plymouth, Minn., Grant couldn’t decide which he liked better, OxyContin or cocaine, so he took a lot of each. “My mom always told me I was a brilliant scholar when I was sober, but most of the school days I was pretty much up in the clouds,” he recalls.