School District of Philadelphia leaders discuss mental health support for students

Students in Philadelphia are not only dealing with the trauma of the pandemic but also the ongoing gun violence in the city. This fall the School District of Philadelphia will be offering mental health support.

Social and emotional support are the two big concerns for Dr. Abigal Gray, deputy chief of School Climate and Culture for the School District of Philadelphia, as they prepare for in-person learning.

As part of the district's "Healing Together Initiative" community meetings will be built into every school day to focus on building relationships, communicating feelings, and practicing empathy. Teachers will also incorporate similar practices in their lessons.

"Greeting people at the door, making sure that all students kind of have an adult they can connect with, building in opportunities for play and fun interaction throughout the day," Gray added.


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The district is also making a big push for a structured, inclusive recess at all schools, especially in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. 

"Families were already going through a lot right so it’s trauma on top of trauma," Dr. Jayme Banks, Deputy Chief of Prevention, Intervention and Trauma said. 

Banks says those schools will also have additional counselors and all schools are partnered with a mental health provider. They will survey kids monthly to ask how they are doing and use that data to plan and they currently training all administrators to be "trusted adults." 

"We’re trying to think of as many ways as possible to not only establish at least one but increase that to more than one so that child feels secure," Banks said.



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