Warsaw School Board Hears About Student Safety And Suicide

(Photo supplied/Warsaw Community Schools)

Student safety and suicide prevention were discussed during the Warsaw School Board meeting Tuesday.

Gina Courtois, social-emotional learning coordinator, talked about suicide prevention.

In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation requiring all school corporations to adopt a policy intended to increase child suicide awareness and prevention. The statute sets forth specific items that must be addressed in the policy, such as counseling services for the child and his/her family related to suicide prevention, cooperation among the school corporation and suicide prevention services in the community and availability of information concerning suicide prevention services in the community.

Seven of the eight policies and procedures that were recommended to Warsaw Community Schools have been obtained, Courtois said. WCS has cooperations with the Bowen Center and WCS’s student- and teacher-assisted programs. WCS has trained all staff in regards to suicide prevention.

Courtois focused on “postvention” when talking to the school board.

“We ultimately don’t want to get to this point. Postvention means we’ve had a risk and that’s not something we really want to really be talking about,” Courtois said. “We want to be upstream,” and WCS is doing that with certain programs like Sources of Strength.

Courtois outlined the suicide response policy.

WCS wants to make sure everyone is doing the same thing, Courtois said. “Part of the reason we do this, not necessarily for the attempt, but if there were an actual suicide, is because we don’t want to, by accident or in the moment of grief, memorialize or create a scenario where we’re creating a contagion.”

Courtois said when a suicide occurs, there can be a ripple effect and that ripple effect can go from six to 32 people.

Courtois said WCS, as a school corporation, doesn’t want to make the ripple effect after a suicide worse.

Things in the postvention  policy include how the death notification is dealt with. Teacher talking points are also given so teachers know how best to answer questions ahead of time since people don’t like things out of the ordinary.

Suicide affects everyone, including teachers, students, community members and other staff members in the school corporation, Courtois said.

In other business, Dr. David Robertson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, updated the board on transportation issues.

Every day, Warsaw Community Schools transports approximately 5,400 bus riders. “Those bus riders aren’t all unique, but for the number of rides we give every day, that’s what we’ve got going on,” Robertson said.

With those rides comes approximately 3,000 bus stops. Robertson said some of the details with bus stops are still being reviewed. There are 64 daily routes in the school corporation.

On Aug. 31, Robertson said a high-risk bus review was held, where six stops were reviewed, which included members of the administration. Robertson said in some of those cases, students were crossing the road to get to the bus and adjustments were made just by looking at the GPS maps and looking at where the best places for the stops were.

Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert said they were all requested stops by the parents.

“Yes, they were requested by the parents. We have documentation from parents on file for those students to be picked up. Our default is for students to be picked up curbside. We have six situations where parents have requested that to not be the place,” Robertson said.

Those stops were reviewed. One of those stops, Robertson said, WCS will pick up students at that stop at curbside anyway because it was “enough of a dangerous situation where we don’t feel comfortable with it.”

Robertson said in the first 2-1/2 to three weeks of school, there have been 14 stop arm violations. Robertson said the stop arm violations are down, but noted 14 is still a lot. Robertson said if people look at the footage, some of the stop arm violations are high-speed and can be “a scary situation.”

Board member Mike Coon asked if the bus could pull over to draw attention to the fact that they are stopping, possibly moving more toward the middle of traffic.

Hoffert said when picking up, students are supposed to stay in their lane. He said buses cannot move toward the middle of traffic because it could put more kids at risk.

WCS does have partnerships with Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, Warsaw Police Department, Winona Lake Police Department and Claypool Police Department.

“Last year, a stop arm violation procedure was developed with our county prosecutor and Dan Hampton’s office specific to what we do,” Robertson said. “All districts in Kosciusko County are now using the exact same reporting form for stop arm violations.”

The violations are called in by the bus driver. Transportation Director Mark Fick and his office reviews those violations that night. If the bus is 100% stopped and the stop arm is out, all the information is documented and sent to local police department for review. If it rises to criminal level, Robertson said the violation will be sent to the prosecutor’s office for prosecution “and that can range anywhere from a moving violation to criminal charges as well.”