Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 28

Addressing students’ social, emotional and behavioral well-being A California school district recognized the importance of students social-emotional needs and implemented a program unlike any other. 28 Leadership In LCAP Community Forums held throughout the district, parents voiced an urgent call for additional social, emo- tional, and behavioral support for their chil- dren. Riverside Unified School District’s board and administrators made the bold decision to implement a Student Assistance Program (SAP) unlike any other. Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services/SELPA, Tim Walker, formed a committee consisting of site and district administrators to draft a plan. The newly developed plan called for the hiring of 27 licensed clinicians, two school psychologists, 10 prevention assis- tants, two support staff, and a coordinator. The clinicians, all licensed clinical social workers or licensed marriage and family therapists, serve students’ social and emo- tional needs and the school psychologists and prevention assistants address students’ behavioral concerns. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) works within the depart- ment of Pupil Services and collaborates with other school and district staff members in serving students and families. Mental health in schools aspires to pro- vide programs and services to intervene as early after the onset of behavior, learning, and emotional problems as is feasible (Adel- man and Taylor, 2010). SAP staff strive to strengthen TK-12 students’ social, emo- tional, and behavioral capacities impact- ing their ability to fully participate in the instructional day and school activities. The SAP serves universal, targeted, and inten- sive tiers of support, while directing its focus on serving the students in need of targeted interventions. Patricia Lock-Dawson, RUSD Board President, states, “The district recognizes the importance of the social-emotional needs of students. My concerns are understood and shared by the administration and elected trustees of Riverside Unified who have made a commitment to fund staff and programs and explore innovative approaches to well- ness in our schools.” Overall, the program receives a wonderfully favorable response from students, families, and staff, with many students benefitting from its impact. By Katarina Roy Schanz, Ed.D.