On Wednesday, March 11th, East hosted a panel of staff and teachers intending to inform parents about issues among students in District 308. This panel consisted of local health and law enforcement officials, who presented upon a plethora of topics facing high school students. Various presentations mainly focused on trauma sensitive teaching, mental health, vaping and social media misuse among teens.
While there were only about 25 community members and parents in attendance, subject matter applied to all students, parents, and staff.
Oswego Education Association Co-President and kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Palatine focused her piece of the presentation on ACES (adverse childhood experiences), which can affect a child’s behavior or learning in negative ways. The behaviors include violent and non-violent outbursts, which according to her, call for the need of trauma sensitive teachers. She informed parents that there are teams of teachers at each school that implement learning among teachers and staff, and parents have a role in recognizing how they can help their kids who have experienced these things.
Palatine explained that teachers who are trauma sensitive and trained with that information in mind are more likely to see warning signs to suicide, self-harm, and potential acts of violence.
When acts of violence or events like this occur, the way the school handles the situation can be instrumental to it as well. School Community Resource Coordinator and the Restorative Justice Coordinator Matt Epperley explained how restorative justice is important in a student body. Restorative justice is a method to help students who have made bad decisions receive beneficial help, along with those they may have hurt in the process.
Epperley and Officer Chiemelewski explained why discipline along with restorative justice are essential together. Krysten Chimelewski, the school resource officer, was there to explain how the law is involved with these issues among students. She informed parents of her role at the school and how she helps to ensure that students are following the law, while keeping them safe.
“I think there is always a place for restorative justice, even if there is discipline involved. There are certain things where we have to say that this is not acceptable. The restorative piece lets us work with that and see how we can make that initial action better,” Chiemelewski said.
Katie Johns, a licensed clinical social worker, certified drugs and alcohol abuse counselor, mental health and substance use disorder professional, behavioral specialist in District 58 and an adjunct professor at Aurora University works to implement these procedures as well. Her focus is in trauma informed practices with parents and in a school professional lens. She discussed an in-depth presentation regarding how trauma affects the brain and how parents, teachers, and staff can help their students after an outburst or something traumatic occurs.
Parent Jennifer Alamani explained that after being diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, she said she did not realize how that may have affected her children.
“I have three young boys, and older daughters too, and never realized that a lot of the behaviour issues started when I went back to work. We think it’s probably because of the issues they had when I was being diagnosed and treated for the cancer,” Alamani said.
Alamani said she wants to use this info to make her well informed and get a better understanding of her kids. She said she also wants to ensure they are being safe overall, as Valerie Patterson, Officer Chimelewski, and Matthew Goodbred showed in their portions of the presentation.
“I’m here every day so I kind of see what’s going on inside of the school and what’s going on outside of it as well,” Chmiekewski said.
Currently, every administrator in the district goes through ALICE, an emergency training program. This allows the staff to be well-informed to act when a threat is in place. Valerie Patterson is the Executive Director for District Student Services in 308 and primarily coordinates these programs at the schools.
“Everything we teach and train is not unique to a school. If there’s a problem, get away from it,” Patterson added.
Even while there are programs to support and prevent acts of violence or that are illegal not all can be prevented, such as vaping. Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Matthew Goodbred’s presentation put vaping into perspective for parents. He showed a video about how vaping devices can be hidden and how parents can be oblivious to it, offering his own experiences with cases of vaping.
“Even though you see these kids writing with a pen or using a USB drive, they can still be vapes. They’re getting really creative,” Goodbred said. “I’m not sure how they all know about it, but with it being illegal, they can get ticketed.”
Executive Director of District Student Services Valerie Patterson similarly stated that it’s difficult to catch the majority of students breaking the law when their devices are so undetectable.
“We’ve had 164 discipline incidents this year,” Patterson said. “If 40% of students have tried it, it’s out of control and out of sight.”
Even while the cases are there, with national polls calling vaping a leading problem among teens, community leaders like Goodbred see disagreement in parents, suggesting that parents may not be ready to accept the potentially dangerous behavior of their children.
“A lot of it is denial. They all think their kid could never do that or that they are an angel. Everybody has a different perspective on their own kid, and as parents we should think our kids are doing their best, but we were all kids once too,” Goodbred said.
Patterson, who helps to combat these issues, said he understands that creating change requires involvement on all levels. She also informed parents about procedures and lock downs, explaining their importance, as this year the district has begun a partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise organization.
“It really takes all the perspectives in the room at the same time,” Patterson added.
Matthew Goodbred explained that he has software and technology to limit his kids cell phone usage, and to monitor what they are giving and receiving. He does this as he has seen some of the worst outcomes on the job, as he sees this in the ambulances and fire station reports.
“I’m really hard on my kids, just because I see what other kids do, I make sure that mine don’t,” Goodbred said.
Because they were only able to reach a small amount of people on community topics, Officer Chiemelewski said that she would like to see a bigger outreach.
“I would like to get students in here, so that they can talk to other students to create a social change. It’s hard, because kids think it won’t happen to them,” Chiemelewski said.
Patterson also explained why it was important to her to keep this event for simply staff and parents.
“On these topics, it can be great to have parents and their students in the room together, but when we are talking about things that students may have more information on than their parents, sometimes it can also be daunting for them to be in the room at the same time,” Patterson added.
Goodbred explained that, despite having a low attendance, the event was important overall.
“If we can inform them on the things they should be looking for, before it becomes a problem, it is always a benefit. We are also here to show them what their kids could be doing,” Goodbred said.
Ashlyn Pearson & Lucy Weiher are staff writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl