LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County School District pushed mental health to the forefront of important issues Thursday. It’s one of the safety components Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara wants to continue improving upon this year.
More than five years ago, the school district only had 20 social workers for roughly 320,000 students. Now, nearly 200 social workers provide support services and are implementing a new way of discipline in schools called Restorative Practices.
“It’s a belief, so it’s that everybody in the classroom has equal playing field and mutual respect and so if something happened an offense happened per se, then how the classroom deals with it,” said Niki Maloff, school social worker for CCSD.
CCSD’s trying to change how it deals with students’ bad behavior.
“Research has shown that when they have choice in what happens in what their offense was they are actually more accountable for it instead of being sent away for somebody else to give them a punishment,” Maloff said.
An option to reduce suspensions and expulsions were just some of the discussion at the back to school kick off for mental health professionals at Bonanza High School Thursday.
Maloff says she has noticed a difference in doing her job now from when she started more than 10 years ago.
“I was currently at Blackhurt Elementary School, and then I was covering a middle school and another elementary school,” Maloff said.
According to Maloff, she is seeing more self -doubt in the kids now, than she did then.
Maloff: “A lot of low self-esteem. A lot of kids that kind of have self-doubt.”
Cristen Drummond, Reporter: “Why do they have such low self-esteem?”
Maloff: “Oh, 100 percent social media.”
According to mental health professionals, the self-esteem issues caused by social media is impacting some students academics, which is why CCSD wants to also focus on students’ social and emotional well being while addressing their educational needs.
“I’m seeing that CCSD is really emerging with their awareness of bringing mental health, mental health interventions into the schools,” said Stephanie Jobin, social work liaison.
One application helping social workers pinpoint students in need is SafeVoice, which is an anonymous reporting system.
“We get a lot of self harm threats through that system or concerns for friends or peers,” said Dr. Tammy Malich, assistant superintendent for CCSD.
Reports made to SafeVoice show bullying is the number one concern. Social workers aim to continue addressing that, along with erasing the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Mental health is a real thing, and bullying is a real thing, and kids need help,” Maloff said.
The district wants to add more social workers as part of a safety grant. Superintendent Jara also says the district will adopt a new code of conduct.