At the school board club meeting two nights ago, there was an excellent presentation on suicide prevention by the Student Services Dept.

This department is not only a good example of what can work within the framework of an otherwise stifling, inept bureaucracy, they also provide a good example of how to present information and how to present a complete, representative view of a department’s activities.

On Tuesday, the folks at Student Services did not get up and read the text on PowerPoint slides, they use the slides as prompts to expand their presentation beyond what the audience sees. This is in stark contrast to the recent agonizing and embarrassing presentation before the OCDE map committee in which a district representative got up and with few deviations, simply read what was on the screen. ($300,000 in compensation doesn’t buy what it used to.)

Student Services is in the crosshairs at this time. Patrick Turner’s tragic suicide has made us all aware that more must be done to identify at-risk students, but even more important, to address the number one deterrent to seeking help.

This was one of the two subjects of my comments on Tuesday.

The number one deterrent to seeking mental health support is stigma. That’s not me talking, that is a fact supported by numerous reputable studies.

There are two areas of stigma that need to be addressed. The first is the potential stigma students feel when they are seeking or receiving help. They feel like an outcast, which only deepens depression. Many students do not seek help for this reason and because they fear being ostracized by their peers should any of them find out.

The second area of stigma that is preventing mental health progress involves parents who do not want their child to receive counseling or therapy because of their fear of having their child “labeled” and/or because they fear that counseling or therapy will prevent them from attending a top college, or prevent them from getting a good job. Some parents do not seek therapy for their children to avoid the shame they associate with mental health intervention.

Sad, but true.

I did not see stigma addressed on Tuesday, so I mentioned it in my comments. If the stigma associated with mental health support is not erased, it won’t matter how good a program this or any district creates.

If the stigma associated with mental health support is not erased, we will continue to see teen suicide and we will continue to experience violence on campuses across the country.

IMO, addressing mental health stigma is the most important job of the Student Services Dept. And according to the data we saw on Tuesday, there are at least 2,000 students in the district who could benefit from mental health support.

Student Services also provided everyone with a belly laugh during their presentation. When the slide addressing the “Wellness Task Force” was shown, the Task Force was show by it’s acronym: WTF. Yes, there was a recommendation for a name change.

The other issue I addressed was the lack of follow-up on something I’d presented months ago, which is the subject of teen cell phone addiction. Again, not just me talking – it’s real and it’s documented. Last month, two key Apple shareholders asked for a study to examine the problem. Here’s a link to the story:

Case closed. (Captioning)

For several weeks now, the district has not hosted the archived videos of the school board club meetings. This is because ADA requirements dictate that they include access for the hearing-impaired, which means adding an open or closed captioning  option.

I wondered here why there was no accountability for the years in which the district should have been in compliant. No one to just say “Sorry” for having missed another requirement – this fumble resulting in the absence of all archived videos.

But how about the meetings since they discovered their goof? The cost of captioning years of past videos is understandable, though we seem to have enough money for skyrocketing legal fees and bureaucrat compensation, but how about just starting with the 2018 meetings? That’s not a lot of money.

There is only one reason why even just the four 2018 school board club meetings have not been captioned and posted and that is because they don’t care to do it. Your accessibility to these archives is just not important enough to the superintendent and the school board club. If it were, there would be no discussion. But it’s not.

In the meantime, you can start viewing them via a YouTube workaround here:

This is not a district-affiliated channel and more archived videos will be posted as they are ready.

My takeaway from the video discussion on Tuesday was this: The school board club is being told a lot about what can’t be done and far too little about what can be done.

It’s legal

Item 15.a.5 on the agenda was an opportunity for the school board club to rubber stamp even more money for lawyers: “Due to the complexity of ongoing litigation, it has become necessary to increase the budget allocation by an additional $138,000, bringing the 2017-18 total budget allocation to $443,000.”

And this is for just one of the district’s law firms.

I guess no one on the school board club realizes the stigma attached to massive legal fees.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD