$420,000 U.S. Justice Department Grant Will Help CNE Support Suicide Awareness
By Dick Maloney
The foundation of Clermont Northeastern School District’s approach to education continues to solidify, brick by brick, layer upon layer, each integrating with the other to address not only the knowledge component, but also the overall well-being of the student and, by extension, the school community.
A grant from the United States Department of Justice is the newest piece in that underpinning. CNE will receive $420,000 over three years to help train staff, students, and parents about suicide awareness. The Grant will also help study and improve school climate, culture and safety District Dean of Students T.J. Dorsey said the grant will complement CNE’s restorative practices and circles initiatives and fits well with the new Mercy Health School Health Center that opened on campus in September.
Dorsey, who coordinates various programs under the brand “The Rocket Way,” uses analytics and data to measure the effectiveness of each. He said the Department of Justice grant, for which CNE applied under the designation “Stop School Violence,” was a “long shot,” but important to the district mission.
“We’re one of the smallest districts in Southwest Ohio to bring a school-based health center to under-served rural areas, our focus is to partner with Mercy Health on many things in the future, but also to use other evidenced based programs to support families. The ‘Signs of Suicide’ program will be one piece used to educate teachers, students, and families on the symptoms and signs of depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. The program will also help families destigmatize depression and suicide in rural areas. We are optimistic to increase the amount of support families will have available as well as being more aware of signs of danger,” Dorsey said.
The Stop Violence Prevention Grant will help enhance the work CNE has put into the it's PBIS program. CNE has become a recognized state leader for its Positive Behaviors Intervention and Support Program, which it began six years ago. The PBIS program has led to a reduction in major office referrals, keeping students in the classroom setting with a proactive approach to recognizing and addressing potential discipline problems.
“Our staff across the board have embraced the focus on social emotional learning, relationships, and mental health. It’s been really great to see everyone put a lot of emphasis on it and it has become the foundation of The Rocket Way, it has become how CNE does business,” Dorsey said.
With this grant, staff members will receive additional high level training in restorative practices, and Some staff will become district trainers in the Signs of Suicide program to increase the districts capacity to serve the community for years to come. A large portion of the grant will be utilized to provide additional staff to oversee the Stop Violence Prevention Grant. Most of the training has been delayed or will be conducted remotely, due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions. Eventually, over the 3 year grant, all students grades 6 through 12 will be provided the evidence-based plan alongside the suicide training each year during that time frame.
“It ends up being a lot of information and work we’re trying to put in over a 36-month period of time. Our work to build a system of support will help us ensure we’re not letting kids fall through the crack,” Dorsey said.
The district has also set up a student assistance program, similar to what employers use, in which families have access to up to six in-person or “tele” mental health visits.
“We want to empower our students to look out for their well-being, and the well-being of everyone else around them,” Dorsey said. “One of the results from increased focus on overall well being is a much safer school climate when you empower students to say something if they are feeling it, or if they see it.”
While the grant specifically addresses the challenges of large rural populations, Dorsey said suicide awareness and prevention is a challenge faced by all districts.
CNE will be required to file quarterly reports and semiannual reports throughout the grant period, as well as an annual school climate assessment. The district will reach out to families in the spring to update a national school climate survey it took two years ago. Dorsey said it will be interesting to see how the data matches up through all of the disruptions of the last eight-plus months.