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The Farmington School District is planning to host a series of roundtable discussions regarding various behavioral health/safety issues facing students, with the first being held next week at Farmington High School.

Associate Superintendent Dr. Ashley Krause said the idea to host the roundtables came from discussions following state mandates for increased mental wellness resources.

“In 2017 we began really looking at a statute that came across from all school districts,” Krause said. “We were being mandated to provide suicide awareness, prevention, intervention and professional development for students and staff.”

Krause said many districts scrambled last year to employ some type of resource or training to meet the mandate, with many being subpar.

“We took up additional training through professional development,” Krause said. “But what we started doing in our district is using a suicide severity rating scale that is suggested for hospitals, police officers and businesses.”

By using this system, Krause said the district is able to identify students potentially struggling with various issues in order to communicate concerns with parents. In the process of evaluating the student responses to the questionnaire that informed the severity rating, Krause said the district became aware that there are a great many issues being experienced by students that could be better addressed by the district.

In a letter addressed to various outside agencies explaining the situation, Krause wrote that every Farmington campus has been touched by students with suicidal thoughts or attempts, with agency connections at an all-time high for the district.

“What we found in the first couple weeks of school is that we have had a massively large influx of behavioral needs,” Krause said. “I just recently started working with our nurses, social workers and safety people kind of as a team. When you bring together a team of people who all have the same issues occurring, you start to talk. And that’s a good thing.”

After discussing the issue within the district, Krause said that it was determined that an important aspect of addressing the problem would be seeking the input of the community at large.

“We decided that this is something we need to take on, and we need to go to the community and the parents,” she said. “We can’t do it alone. A lot of it is out of fear and anxiety because we’re seeing a lot of hurting kids and issues out there.”

To that end, the district will be hosting roundtable discussions from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Farmington High School, with students, parents and other members of the community invited to come, speak and listen.

“We’ll set it up in quadrants,” Krause said. “What’s awesome about a roundtable is that the people at the table talk and drive the discussion. We want the community members and parents to drive that discussion.”

Topics for discussion will include suicide, homelessness, safety/well-being and tobacco/alcohol/drug trends. Conversation facilitators will include district staff and two Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers.

Participants will have the opportunity to rotate among the various topics throughout the evening, meaning that even if an individual is unable to arrive at 3:30, they can still come later and participate.

Krause said the hope for the roundtable discussions is for people to simply talk with each other, get an understanding of issues and to throw out potential solutions.

“This is kind of step one,” she said. “Step two would be: what do we as a community do about this? What do we do about some of these trends?

“My hope is that we can all kind of support each other and start to move in the same direction with some of the needs that we have as a community. There are tons of smart people out there in the community that know way more than we do in some areas, and if we can reach out to them and help each other, I think we can come up with a plan to move forward.”

Krause said she hopes for similar roundtable discussions to take place at the district every few months to address the continued behavioral needs of district students in order to incorporate those aspects into the district’s overall strategic plan.

The roundtable discussion is open to all members of the community, not just parents or guardians of students.

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Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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