As school districts across North Texas work to figure out when it will be safe to allow students to return to classrooms, teachers are being trained to spot abuse, neglect and children in crisis when online learning starts and when students eventually return to schools.
“This landscape that we are in right now is one where you have to be very, very adaptable,” Mesquite ISD Director of Counseling Services Kemberly Edwards said. “I read a statistic that child abuse in Dallas County is up almost 14% and that is a very telling statistic because schools are one of the primary reporters of child abuse and kids have not been at school.”
School personnel are often the ones to spot issues with children.
“The crossing guard or the cafeteria worker… you get to know these kids pretty quickly,” Catrina Mitchell with Dallas ISD’s Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Prevention Officer said.
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They are trained to see signs of physical abuse, but are now getting trained to see children in distress during online learning sessions.
“Educate our staff on what to look for and what to listen for. To hear what they are not saying,” Edwards said.
“Or looking off-camera, almost trying to see if someone is watching them, watching what they are saying,” Mitchell added.
Mesquite ISD will utilize virtual counseling and focus on providing more interaction.
“Probably doing some drive-by home visits,” Edwards said. “We’ll be practicing social distancing and wearing masks, but one of our big things we’ve talked about in the last few days is laying eyes on kids.”
Dallas ISD is training teachers to pay attention to changes to behavior even oddities in homework and journals.
“Sometimes you have a kid that goes through a battle just to get to school,” Mitchell said. “Some of our teachers have to be social workers before they can ever get to their agendas because some of these kids are coming in with heavy loads.”