Monongalia Board of Education looks beyond classrooms to students’ emotional health

MORGANTOWN — A percentage point (or two) can still make for a world of hurt.

Two years ago, 32 percent of West Virginia’s high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless to the point where they simply started shutting down.

That was compared to 31 percent nationwide.

Across the U.S. that year, 17 percent of the country’s high-schoolers said they seriously considered suicide. Across the Mountain State, that same response was 18 percent.

Nine percent of the state’s students did attempt suicide one or more times in 2016, opposed to the 7 percent nationwide who reported similar experiences.

Those numbers, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, don’t take into account other issues felt particularly in West Virginia and Appalachia, such as opioid abuse or physical violence in the home.

And this particular chronicling doesn’t include the pre-kindergarten students and elementary school students victimized by the above.

That new emotional landscape was touched upon a lot during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Monongalia County Board of Education.

“That’s why we’re in crisis right now,” Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. told a trio of local lawmakers during the meeting, part of which was given over as an informational session.

Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, attended with delegates Dave Pethtel and Rodney Pyles: The two are Democratic incumbents who represent the 5th House in Wetzel County and 51st in Mon, respectively.

The BOE traditionally hosts north-central West Virginia lawmakers ahead of the annual Legislative session, which will be gaveled in next month, in Charleston.

“You have to tell us what you need and what’s important to you,” said Prezioso, a former teacher and school administrator who began his career in the classroom in Monongalia County.

Campbell and BOE members did just that in a nearly 90-minute discussion which addressed everything from bus driver recruitment and the overseeing of home-schooled students and their parents — on top the thorny outside issues that led to troubled students and chaotic classrooms.

The superintendent said Mon County is already in front of the issue — to a point.

Four alternative education programs are already in place, he said, running the spectrum from early childhood education to seniors embarking upon graduation.

In Tucker County, he said, it was a matter of juggling resources. If he needed a psychologist, he said, a math teaching position would have to go unfilled.

And all across West

Virginia, he said, it’s a matter of re-education and resolve for the people on the other side of the desk.

Right now, he said, West Virginia isn’t doing a good job of schooling its educators on handling behavioral situations and circumstances that go beyond classroom management.

“Teachers aren’t cut out for this,” he said. “We need better models in place.”

Twitter @DominionPostWV

JBissett@DominionPost.com

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