Archive for the 'Counseling and Human Services' Category

Building a Foundation in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

As the academic year closes, students in the College of Education’s Masters Degree programs are wrapping up extensive research and consultant projects — read on to learn more about their work!

First-year students in Masters Degree programs have a steep learning curve. They are adjusting to an increased workload and higher expectations than their undergraduate experiences while sometimes learning a new city and environment. It’s essential to build a strong foundation for their academic and professional careers. As part of this process, students in the College of Education’s “Foundations of Clinical Mental Health” course are working on skills that will translate to the next level both before and after graduation. Dr. Jennifer Cook’s students research a designated population of society, its perceptions by society and popular culture, and at the end of the semester, present their findings to an audience of peers and community members.

This particular project occurs in four phases. In Phase One, students write a proposal. As background, students may work with a partner or on their own, the choice is up to them. Students who work together typically do so based on subject interest. They identify the population they will investigate for the entire project, conduct a preliminary literature review (to ensure the topic is viable from a counseling literature perspective), and state their personal and professional motivations for their chosen population.

In Phase Two, students examine both popular culture and scholarly literature perspectives of their chosen population. For the popular culture piece, they evaluate multiple media forms (e.g., movies, TV, Facebook, Twitter, memes, informal surveys, blogs). For the scholarly literature, they are required to examine six domains (e.g., evidenced based practices, common diagnoses, utilization of wellness and prevention services), while they integrate the impact of multiple cultural identities and social justice needs/implications. To conclude Phase Two, they compare and contrast popular culture and the scholarly literature, and draw reasonable conclusions how both impact clients, counselors, counseling treatment, and counseling outcomes.

During Phase Three, students interview at least one counseling clinician who works with their chosen population. They have to devise their own interview questions, many of which come from what they learned during Phase Two and the questions that arose for them. In all phases, students reflect on their own process and how it is shaping them as a counselor. Phase Four is the poster presentation. Students create a poster that captures their largest learnings throughout the project; they are responsible for designing the poster and deciding what to include. At the end of the semester, all students present their research in front of an audience of faculty, staff, and community members.

For Dr. Cook, there are a couple of advantages to students’ work and outcomes: “first and foremost, it gives student the opportunity to educate others and advocate for the population they researched.” If each year students and the audience can take away new information about topics that they hadn’t previously considered, she considers it a win. In addition, Dr. Cook notes that students “get to practice professional skills, like public speaking, having professional conversations, and displaying the most important information people need to know (posters are common at our professional conferences).” As students’ confidence increases and anxiety related to presenting decreases, she sees another benefit as “counselors are called on to present to lay people and professionals pretty regularly, so it’s excellent to expose them to doing it early so they know they can.”

Overall, this project is beneficial because it challenges students to view populations from multiple angles, to understand more about the reasons why people can’t or won’t seek mental health treatment, and to understand the realities of working with their chosen population.

This semester, students chose to focus on the following populations:

  • Adolescents with Substance Use Disorder
  • Latinos with Anxiety Disorder
  • Children who Witness Intimate Partner Violence
  • Personality and Eating Disorders
  • Adolescents who Experience Trauma
  • Women and Sex Issues
  • Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Adolescents with addiction
  • African American Adolescent Males
  • Refugees with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Young women with Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Interested in learning more about the College of Education’s graduate programs in Counselor Education and Counseling Education? Visit us online!

Ramp Up With a COED Alumna

Osborne High School counselors, administrator, clerk and parent liaison

Congratulations to Courtney (Wesnofske) Courtney (Master of Arts in School Counseling, ’13) and the counseling department in Osborne High School (Marietta, GA) for receiving RAMP classification! Courtney is the first graduate of the program to achieve RAMP status for her department.

RAMP, short for Recognized ASCA Model Program, is a designation from the American School Counselor Association to recognize high performing school counseling departments. The RAMP designation provides departments with the confidence that the program aligns with a nationally accepted and recognized model, evaluations and areas for improvement, and enhances the efforts to contribute to student success. Currently, over 700 schools in 43 states received a RAMP designation.

For Courtney and her department, receiving RAMP status has been a rewarding experience. “This RAMP designation has proven that we as a department work to address the needs of the whole child/student, which is our ultimate goal,” stated Courtney when asked the importance of receiving RAMP status. With limited resources and a high caseload per counselor, the RAMP classification shows the hard work the department does to support all students. Courtney further explained how the department works with data to drive programs to help students, parents, and the community. “Our data has led to implementing interventions through small group, classroom curriculum, and individual counseling, as well as increasing our events offered to our parents and guardians,” explained Courtney.

Along with increasing programs and events, Courtney stated how the school has seen other increasing with college and career preparedness, parent/guardian involvement, and an increase in graduation rates. In the past three years, graduation rate has increased from 48.4% to 68%. Since receiving RAMP classification, Courtney explained how the department is using the feedback provided by the RAMP application to improve their programs for students. Also, Courtney mentioned an increase of passion and excitement for the work the department does. “ I can honestly say that one of the biggest changes is an increased sense of passion and excitement for working to improve the supports provided to all students,” she stated.

Dr. Alan Burkard, Department Chair of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology (CECP) at Marquette University, shared his excitement for Courtney and her department’s success by saying, “As a past RAMP reviewer, I know that not all school counselors can meet the rigorous criteria established to receive this award.” To him, it is the department’s goal to see the graduates of the program become the kind of professionals they hoped to develop. “Knowing that our students are demonstrating this kind of commitment to their schools and profession is simply an honor, and it suggests that the message we hope students will learn is being achieved.”

Want to learn more about Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education at Marquette University? Visit us online!

5 Things to Remember About Middle School Students

7841950486_428fcebe11_bBy Sabrina Bartels

I want to tell you a secret: I initially did not want to be in a middle school.

During my interview, one of my interviewers asked which age level I would most like to work with. At the time, I replied that I wanted to be in a high school. Talking about college, advising students on their application essays, and discussing scholarships sounded like what I most wanted in life. The interviewers then asked what age group I did not want to work with. I laughed and responded “Middle school!”

Here’s why I initially said no: middle school is a really tough age. In fact, that’s probably an under-exaggeration. Middle school is probably the toughest age. You’re not an adult, but you’re not a kid either. You want to be independent, yet you want rules. You want your parents’ love, but then you hate it because it’s so overbearing (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Oh my God, Mom! I can’t hug you in public!”). You’re hormonal and cranky, and no one seems to understand you. Trust me, I remember.

With all that on my mind, I was full of trepidation when I went into the middle school.

But now, I love it. I thrive on it. Because as crazy as these days may be, I love my students. I love my job. I also love quoting my parents, which I do on a frequent basis (I can’t tell you the number of times I say “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”).

I recently stumbled across an article by Jennifer Gonzalez that was entitled “8 Things I know for Sure About Middle School Kids.” It was a hilarious, but very truthful list of things to know about middle school students. While her thoughts and tips are spot on, I thought I would add a few lessons that I have learned as well.

  1. Middle school students are (surprisingly) very forgiving. Whether it’s you or their best “frenemy,” middle schoolers are willing to bury the hatchet with others. Enemy talks about them behind their back? Two days later, they are best friends. Student gets into a verbal disagreement with a teacher? The teacher is back in his good graces before the end of the day. And when I need to have a serious discussion with a kiddo and give her a consequence, the pouting lasts for a day or less.
  2. They really do appreciate the boundaries you set. How is this possible when they argue with you at EVERY turn? But I have found that my middle school students feel much safer and more secure when there are firm boundaries set. For example, my students know that when they come into my office, they can say almost anything they want. My only rule is that they not swear. When I have students who need to vent, they often come in furious, spewing out all their hatred for school, their teacher, or their homework. But the minute they swear, many of them turn bright red, apologize, then proceed in a more neutral tone. It teaches them that they can have feelings and they can be angry, but they have to moderate their anger and be appropriate with it.
  3. Respect is expressed in so many different ways. This was one of the biggest eye-openers for me coming into a middle school. I’ve been raised that respect looks like polite words and gestures, calm tone of voice, and eye contact. Some of my students do not have the same ideas of what respect is, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t show it; they just express it in different ways. I remember one student mentioned to me that the reason he never shouted at me the same way he yelled at other teachers because he didn’t want to make me cry. I don’t know why he thought I would cry over this, but he was very careful and mindful never to shout at me. I think it was respect, and it really flattered me. Even if students don’t meet my definition of “respect,” they still find ways to demonstrate it.
  4. They are still learning how to ask for help … and that’s hard. I can’t tell you the number of students I meet with who are struggling in class, yet when I ask them if they have spoken to their teachers about this, they say no. Some are too embarrassed, some are just plain shy, and some have honestly no idea how to ask for help, since they never had to in school before. I was one of those kids when I was in middle school, so these kiddos have a very special place in my heart. As a counselor, the best thing I can do is model with them how to ask for help, and assure them that there is nothing wrong with it.
  5. They really are watching everything you do. Every year, you would think that I would get used to the fact that being a middle school counselor is the equivalent to being a goldfish in an aquarium. And yet, every year it still surprises me. While I don’t run into students too often, they do randomly appear at different places: State Fair, Summerfest, various restaurants, and the mall. Some say hi to me in the moment; some pretend I don’t exist, but mention it the next time they see me at school. I know some of my students try to find me on social media. What does this mean for me? It means that wherever I go, I’m mindful of how I act, speak, and dress. Before I post anything on social media, I consider what would happen if my students ever saw it. I want to be a role model for my students, both in and out of school. It’s important to me. Even when they act like they could care less about me, I know they’re watching.

Those are my five thoughts! If you want to read the original article, you can find it here.

On Not Judging a Field Trip by Its Cover

images (3)By Sabrina Bartels

When I was younger, my parents would always tell me not to judge a book by its cover. I used to think that they would say this just because I was always going to the library and finding new books to read. I would always pick the books with the brightest colors and the most pages, regardless of whether I liked the subject matter or not. It wasn’t until I was older that I began appreciating the nondescript books hidden on the shelves: the romantic escapades penned by Jane Austen, the tragic love story told in The Great Gatsby, and the adventures experienced in The Chronicles of Narnia. To this day, my love of reading has not changed.

But I’ve thought about that age-old adage that my parents used to tell me, and it’s taken on a whole new meaning after a recent experience.

One of the perks of being a school counselor is getting invited on field trips. This year, two of the sixth grade classes asked me to chaperone their trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo. The first group told me that they were going to place all of the kids I hadn’t gotten to know as well in my group. Perfect! I got to spend some one-on-one time with seven really awesome kids. I learned about their hobbies, their passions, their quirky personalities, and their hilarious senses of humor. I came back from that trip feeling awesome and ready to conquer the next field trip.

And then I was handed my group assignment. Not going to lie, I cringed a bit.

In an effort to reduce the sheer amount of drama/conflict going on in that class, all of us chaperones were handed at least one girl who was heavily involved in the drama. In my group were three girls whom I knew were often in the thick of things. Okay, two of them weren’t always the prime suspects, but they definitely had a hand in contributing. I was worried because not only did I have three possible girls who were involved in drama, but I had one of the top drama starters in my group, someone whom I talked to on almost a daily basis about starting drama. I almost cried.

So the next morning, I prepared myself. I set ground rules. I told them that if I had to speak to them even once about drama, they were getting a detention the minute we got back to school. As we started our walk through the zoo, I found myself dreading every minute, because every minute brought us closer to possible drama.

But you know what? It didn’t.

I spent a lot of time before the field trip worrying about how I was going to control my particular group. I didn’t need to. This group turned out better than my other, which is definitely saying something.

These girls – these girls that I had worried about with drama, and girls that I had talked to earlier that month about keeping their nose out of it – were perfect. And I do mean PERFECT. They were quiet. They were patient. They did their worksheet with little to no prompting from me. They were polite to the younger kids, letting them get closer to the windows so they could see the animals. When one older gentleman walked through the aviary with us, pointing out every species of bird that the zoo had, my girls were attentive and asked great questions. I was worried that they were going to roll their eyes, or get on their phones, but they didn’t. They acted so incredibly mature. It was amazing.

As we rode back to school, I began chastising myself. Here, I had been dreading the entire affair, and it had turned out that my fears were groundless. My students were great. In essence, I had done exactly what my parents had always warned me not to do. I had judged all of my “books” by their covers.

To see that my students had this whole other side to them was fulfilling. It raised my spirits. It reminded me that I only get to see one facet of my students at school; it is so rare to see every side of my student in the seven hours that I have them. (How often do we show all of our own sides to the people we work with?) And then I reminded myself that I need to love and appreciate the side of my students that I do see, whether it’s their best side or not. I need to cherish these students as they are. No matter what, they are still my students, and still deserve my care, concern, and support.

It was a good lesson. I hope you all get to experience it someday as well!

Culture and How It Creates Us

cultureBy Sabrina Bartels

During one of my PBIS meetings, I was able to get a little insight into culturally responsive practices. These practices ask educators to examine their own culture and how it shapes their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. While this topic in general fascinates me, I was really intrigued by one of the activities that we did.

The facilitator of this discussion asked all of us to write down – in one minute – what our culture was. As everyone put pen to paper, I remember staring at the blank sheet in front of me. My culture? There were so many things that fit my culture. What exactly did he want? My nationality? The culture I most identify with?

For me, going through culturally responsive practices training is a little awkward. Part of it is because I am one of the few minorities on staff; part of it is because I view culturally responsive practices in a slightly different light. For me, my culture is a glaring obvious part of my life, and yet, it is also a huge question.

I was raised “American.” Or, to be really specific, I was raised to be a true Wisconsin girl. I say “bubbler” and think cheese curds should be a major food group. Every Sunday, it’s hot ham and rolls while watching the Packers take on their latest opponent. I know how to tailgate with the best of them, and I know that really good tailgates usually involve beer-boiled brats (and of course, it’s Miller beer that we use) cooked on a charcoal grill. It’s “soda,” not “pop.” I can say Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, and Ashwaubenon with minimal difficulty (and yes, I could spell all of those without looking them up.) I can whip up a brandy old-fashioned if anyone asks, I eat custard and cream puffs, and I’ve seen a cow in real life. Most importantly, I know how to polka and, in fact, requested that one be played at my wedding.

However, you could argue that I do not look like a Wisconsin girl. I am 100% Korean, and was adopted when I was a baby. I do not look like my German/Polish/French/Welsh parents, a fact that used to lead to a lot of embarrassing interactions between my friends and parents.

Friend: Who are those people?

Me: Um, those are my parents …

Friend: But you don’t look alike!

Me: Well …

My parents have always encouraged me to explore my Korean side, and in some ways, I have. I participated in both traditional Korean dance and Korean drumming from the time I was seven until I was well into high school. We would drive up to Minnesota in the summer for a Korean Culture Camp, which exposed me to the language and history of Korea, as well as take classes on self-esteem for Korean-American adoptees. My family has constantly worked to integrate my Korean side into my life: my mom has learned how to make traditional Korean food, my dad is a chopsticks champion, and both did their best to get me involved with learning the Korean language. While I embrace being Korean, I can honestly say it doesn’t guide my life the way my “Wisconsin” culture has.

So which culture should I identify with? Is it wrong of me to identify with just one? Both? None at all?

And I think about how it must be for our students. If I, as a 28-year-old adult, struggle to define what my culture is, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for our 12, 13, 14-year-old students.

Let me give you an example. I have a student who does not believe that education is necessary. According to her, mom only finished high school, and dad never passed middle school. Both parents have jobs and can provide for my student. In their household, swearing is a part of normal conversation.

For my student, who has grown up believing that education is not as crucial, it is a struggle when she comes to school. She often sleeps through class and refuses to do her homework. Swear words have a habit of sneaking into her daily vocabulary, which irritates a few of her fellow students. When I talk to her about her attitude or behavior, she is confused as to why she is in trouble. She explained that mom and dad never went to college and are doing fine; she says that mom and dad swear often in the household, and that she, as a result, does too. And then I talk to her about why we are making her do her homework and stay awake in class. We talk about how some sort of higher education is important, maybe more important than it was back when her parents were in school. We talk about how swearing is not appropriate in school, whether it is casual or whether it’s provoked. And we find out how our cultures differ in this regard, because while she listens and asks questions, I can’t guarantee that she’s going to change. And, to be honest, she may not want to … and there isn’t anything wrong with it.

But here is this student who, every day, is forced to wrestle with the culture that she has grown up in versus the culture of the school she attends. They are drastically different. Which is right? Is one right? Is one wrong? And which one wins in the end?

I remember the movie “Freedom Writers,” where some of the students told their teacher that their goals for their future were drastically different than the ones she had. She imagined them graduating from high school, from higher education, of them doing something with their lives. For her students, their idea of “graduating” was living through each day, as they encountered gang-riddled neighborhoods and violence every day of their lives. That lesson wasn’t lost on me. For some of my students, getting an education is the ultimate goal. For some students, the ultimate goal is just surviving each day.

And this is why culturally responsive practices are so critical for everyone to engage in. Our culture makes us who we are. I may identify with two cultures, but both have influenced me to become the woman I am today. The same can be said for our students. How they view the world, how they view education, and how they view their futures may be different than what we imagine. But by engaging in culturally responsive practices, we are opening our eyes to the cultural conflict our students may be experiencing, and learning how we can engage our students with open minds … and open hearts.

Stress Related to Immigration Status in Students: A Brief Guide

This brief guide is designed to provide an overview of detention, deportation, and other immigration status-related stress and its effect on children and families, as well as suggestions for how school personnel can support families in the context of this unique stressor. Please note that the information included in this document was obtained from published reports as well as suggestions from mental health professionals, teachers and other school staff. It is our hope that others might contribute to this guide; in this way it can be a dynamic compilation of practical ideas to support our community members.

Lisa M. Edwards, PhDDepartment of Counselor Education & Counseling Psychology, College of Education, Marquette University

Jacki Black, MA EdAssociate Director for Hispanic Initiatives, Marquette University

 

The Context of Immigration Stress

 There are more than 11 million individuals residing in the U.S. without legal authorization from the federal government. While the total number of unauthorized or “undocumented” immigrants in the U.S. has remained stable since 2009, there has been a rise in K-12 students with at least one undocumented parent. In 2014 estimates suggested that 7.3% (or about 3.9 million) K-12th grade students in U.S. public and private schools were children of unauthorized parents.1 The vast majority of these children (3.2 million) were U.S.-born, and therefore are citizens. These children are members of “mixed-status families,” or households in which at least one member is a citizen or legal resident and at least one is not.

The context of having a parent, sibling or relative without documentation, or not being documented oneself, is a unique stressor that cannot solely be understood as generic stress or trauma. Families with members who are undocumented often “live in the shadows,” experiencing a lack of safety and fear of deportation. Because of their relationship with students and families, teachers, counselors, and other school personnel are often on the front line of dealing with mental health concerns as they arise, and should be well-informed about the challenges that immigration status issues may present.

How Detention and Deportation Affects Children

Over the past eight years, 2.7 million unauthorized immigrants were deported, not including those who “self-deported.”2 These deportations not only affect the individual, but can also have devastating consequences for families.

A growing body of research suggests that children who experience the detention and deportation of a parent suffer from many short and long-term mental health effects, including loss of appetite, changes in sleep (e.g., nightmares), crying, clinginess, and feelings of fear. Additionally, these children can later exhibit PTSD-like symptoms, including anxiety, withdrawal, and anger/aggression, as well as academic declines at school (for a summary report about the psychosocial impact of detention and deportation see: Brabeck, Lykes, & Lustig, 2013).

In two reports about the direct effects of detention and deportation on families, researchers identified these key findings related to mental health:3,4

  • Children experienced “a pervasive sense of insecurity and anxiety,” which led to mental health concerns such as separation anxiety, attachment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • In some cases, children didn’t know their parents were being deported and therefore felt their parents had suddenly “disappeared.”
  • Family members often had difficulties communicating with parents who were detained due to distance, rules and costs of communication, which exacerbated the emotional harm to children.
  • Spouses and partners of detained parents reported struggling with social isolation and depression after the detention, which likely negatively affected their children.
  • When parents, who are typically fathers, were detained, there was substantial financial hardship and stress on the family. This hardship often led to caregiving and housing instability for children.
  • The negative emotional, financial and housing effects led to declines in school performance for many of these children.

Toxic Stress: How the Threat of Detention and Deportation Affects Children

The stress related to detention and deportation not only affects those who have experienced the detention of a parent or those who are undocumented. For example, research suggests that children who are aware of the threat of deportation or who have undocumented parents have higher levels of fear and anxiety, as well as disrupted sleeping and eating.5 Other studies have shown that the threat of deportation negatively affects children’s grades and leads to more students missing school and changing schools.5,6 Additionally, deportation-related stress may in fact spill over to legal residents who experience discrimination and may fear for the future of themselves or their children.7,8

The notion of toxic stress provides a useful framework for understanding how the threat of detention or deportation can negatively affect the physical health, emotional well-being, and educational performance of youth. Toxic stress is the stress from prolonged exposure to serious stress that can harm developing brains and result in psychological, biological and neurological changes.9 In essence, this means that children with knowledge about the potential threat of deportation may be living in a constant, heightened state of anxiety which does not allow the body to return to baseline functioning. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in support of protecting immigrant children against the negative effects of the toxic stress of living in fear of deportation since this type of stress can disrupt a child’s developmental processes and lead to long-term concerns.10

This toxic stress may be intensifying in the current political climate. Over fiscal year 2016, 92% of those deported from the interior of the U.S. had previously been convicted of a crime.2 Following the new administration’s directive to define deportable offenses more broadly, however, many unauthorized immigrants who previously had not been considered high priority targets may now be at greater risk for immigration enforcement action. In the first major immigration strike under the Trump presidency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched coordinated raids in at least 12 states, resulting in over 680 detentions of “criminal aliens” – now defined as any unauthorized immigrant – over the course of one week.11 The current administration has also repeatedly called into question the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—President Obama’s executive order providing temporary relief from deportation action for many undocumented youth, heightening the uncertainty and anxiety felt by these “DREAMers.”

Behavioral/Emotional Signs of Immigration Status-Related Stress in the Classroom:

Though every child is different, those who have directly experienced the loss of a parent to deportation or those who are coping with the threat related to documentation status may show some of the following signs in the classroom:

  • Acting withdrawn—appearing disconnected from life; pulling away from activities and relationships
  • Hyperarousal – nervousness, jumpiness, hypervigilance about surroundings
  • Difficulties focusing in schools, learning or memory problems, and decreased school performance
  • Externalizing symptoms – aggressive behaviors, temper tantrums, excessively seeking attention, etc.
  • Somatic complaints (e.g., stomach aches, headaches, fatigue)
  • Regressive behaviors in young children (e.g., accidental daytime wetting or reports of bedwetting)
  • Crying, sadness
  • Fears of being separated from caregivers or family (e.g., not wanting to come to school)
  • Acting nervous, anxious or fearful, avoiding certain activities
  • Poor appetite or digestive problems
  • Poor or disrupted sleep

How School Personnel Can Support Students in the Classroom:

  • Be observant and establish trust. If a student is exhibiting some of the aforementioned behavioral or emotional signs of distress, do not assume the cause and do not put students on the spot by asking them directly. Rather, create an environment in which students feel safe, providing opportunities for them to disclose their stressors. Be an active listener to see what a child might need.
  • Be patient. Some students may exhibit behaviors and emotions that you have not seen before. Consider this when enforcing rules and other disciplinary actions.
  • Be willing to talk. When students reveal immigration status-related issues, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Some students may talk openly about their fears and anger, and many may have questions. Don’t hesitate to answer questions as honestly as you can, and let students know when you aren’t sure. For younger children, be sure to use language that is understandable and that does not cause more fear; young children may not be able to fully comprehend what has been happening or why they feel anxious or stressed.
  • Recognize the importance of language. Teachers and other school personnel should be sensitive in their use of language, favoring terminology such as “undocumented/unauthorized immigrants” and making known that use of the terms “illegals” or “illegal immigrants/aliens” will not be tolerated in their classrooms. “Illegal alien” is not a legal term and is not an accurate descriptor as the status of being present in the U.S. without a visa is not actually a criminal violation. More importantly, these terms can have a dehumanizing impact by effectively rendering the individual and their entire existence as “illegal.”
  • Show your support. Teachers can demonstrate their support through images showing that they are allies. For example, this painting by Favianna Rodriguez has become symbolic of the DREAMers movement:

favianna-welcome-dreamers4

By displaying this on a white board or desk, students are more likely to know that you are a “safe” person with whom they can discuss their immigration status–related stress.

  • Communicate with your colleagues. Inform school staff (e.g., counselors, social workers, administration) regarding what you are seeing in the classroom so that appropriate services can be developed and needs can be addressed.
  • Take care of yourself. Seeing the stress that your students and their families are facing can be overwhelming. Find ways to relieve stress and get the help that you need, too.

How Schools Can Support Students and Families:

  • Set a tone of safety and respect.
    • Make your school a “safe space” through public statements of support such as this one from the Minneapolis school board that reaffirms every child’s right to an education. These statements are most effective when grounded in the vision, mission, or stated strategic plan goals of the school or district, and should include language around creating a safe, welcoming environment for all students.
    • Be aware of the peer dynamics in your school environment. Deal directly with any derogatory language or behaviors from peers that are rooted in condescending attitudes towards immigrants and use these as teachable moments.
  • Share accurate and helpful information.
    • Assure students that any information the school has about a student’s immigration status is protected through FERPA; the only way the federal government can obtain immigration status information from school officials is through a warrant or subpoena signed by a federal magistrate.
    • Inform students and their families of these rights, resources, and recommendations from the National Immigration Law Center and/or distribute “know your rights” cards which provide simple but important tips for how to respond to encounters with ICE agents.
    • Be proactive and hold meetings for families who may have questions. Consider bringing legal experts and other social service programs to present about relevant topics.
    • Remember that some parents may keep their children at home if there are threats of deportation raids in the community. Research also suggests that Latina/o children and families may have a distrust of authorities, sometimes conflating police with ICE officials.12,13 This may be especially true in localities that have engaged in 287(g) agreements with ICE, which deputize local law enforcement officers as arms of the federal government. As of the writing of this article, there are 38 such law enforcement agencies that have been delegated this authority14 but new immigration directives from the Department of Homeland Security have called for the expansion of this program.15 Stay informed on the situation in your community and be sensitive to parents’ fears.
  • Provide direct support and start a referral list.
    • Arrange counseling for students, or if necessary, provide appropriate referrals. Learn about the trusted social service agencies, legal supports, churches or religious organizations and other resources in your area. Collaborate with these agencies so that you can feel confident in your referrals, especially given that some families will be hesitant to access services or may not be eligible.
    • Adolescents may also appreciate the opportunity to discuss their stressors with peers in similar situations through discussion circles and support groups.
  • Encourage advocacy.
    • Adolescents and young adults may feel empowered and gain access to valuable support and resources by volunteering for advocacy organizations. Create space for students’ civic engagement through supportive school policies.
  • Stay informed and educate your faculty and staff.
    • Administrators should take responsibility for staying informed about changes in policies and laws regarding immigration and deportation. For example, a policy memorandum by ICE in 2011 established that agents are to refrain from enforcement actions (e.g., raids) at certain ‘sensitive locations’ such as schools and universities, hospitals, churches and other places of worship, funerals/weddings, and public demonstrations such as marches or rallies. It is possible that this policy memorandum may be reversed; therefore, school leaders should remain informed about possible changes.16
    • Provide professional workshops for school personnel around the challenges that students who are undocumented or who have undocumented family members face, the protections around student information provided by FERPA, the legal limits of what ICE can and cannot do, and creating culturally competent and responsive classroom environments.

Schools may not be able to address the root causes of immigration status-related stress for the children they serve, but through increased awareness, proactive policies, displays of support, and providing access to information and resources, they can do their part to live their mission of supporting our community’s students and families.

Resource Guides for Schools

 Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff – American Federation of Teachers (2016)

https://firstfocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ICE-Raids_Educators-Guide-20161.pdf

This comprehensive guide provides information for school personnel about the rights of undocumented children and parents and how to respond to ICE raids. Specific materials are provided to share with families regarding their rights in the context of detainment or deportation.

Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth – U.S. Department of Education (2015)

https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/focus/supporting-undocumented-youth.pdf

This guide offers legal guidelines, practical tips, and resources for secondary and postsecondary institutions in fostering supportive environments and success for undocumented students.

References

 

 

 

Public Education- An Endangered Endeavor?

save our tudentsBy Dhanya Nair

Education, one of the most basic services that should be made available to children and youth by society, is often the cause of much debate and controversy. Providing quality public education is challenging, even in developed nations like the United States. However, the benefits of free k-12 education are immense and are often reflected in the quality-of-life of a nation’s citizenry. Political leadership has a direct influence on public education through funding and curricula. Having grown up in a nation where public schools lack funds and quality teachers, and where warring political parties propagate their viewpoints by altering textbooks, I feel strongly about the need for citizen-participation in matters of education.

Public education is meant to provide a level-playing field for children from different racial, socioeconomic and social class backgrounds. Education should be an equalizer, not the fiefdom of a select few. If the people making decisions about public education in this country or any other are not committed to achieving its actual goals, there is cause for concern. As a mental health professional, I interact to some extent with the urban school system in this city and within the scope of my limited interaction, the disparities between urban and suburban schools are clear to me. Inequalities are meted out regularly to those children who come from minority, low socioeconomic and low social class backgrounds. Common sense dictates that the achievement gap can be narrowed largely by affording equal opportunities to children cross this nation. However, it remains to be seen if new educational policies will bow to political ideologies or the best interests of students.


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