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Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students

The job of the school counselor has evolved over the years, from academic guide to something deeper: the adult in a school tasked with fostering students’ social and emotional growth, a mental health first responder and a confidant for kids, especially teens, who often need a closed door and a sympathetic ear. But the closure of nearly all U.S. schools has forced counselors to reimagine how they can do their jobs. And the stakes have never been higher.

Between closed schools, social isolation, food scarcity and parental unemployment, the coronavirus pandemic has so destabilized kids’ support systems that the result, counselors say, is genuinely traumatic.

Counselors say part of the trauma comes from students being isolated from each other.

Not only are many students grieving and struggling with new trauma, it’s also harder now for school counselors to help them. That’s because counselors have lost one of the most powerful tools they had before schools closed: access. Before, counselors could speak to entire classrooms about bullying and how to manage their feelings, plus they enjoyed office space where students could drop in for a quick visit or schedule a tough conversation.

NPR spoke with counselors across the country, from California to Georgia, Oklahoma to Ohio, and nearly all said they worry about even the best-case scenario — when they’re able to connect with a student face-to-face using video chat technology. Their fear: privacy.

At school, “we have some sort of office space… where students can feel like they’re having a private conversation with counselors,” says Brian Coleman, a high school counselor in Chicago. “Now we’re asking them to be vulnerable in some capacity at home. And for so many students, home is a space where they’re triggered or they don’t feel comfortable sharing … because it’s no longer private.”

The same holds true for many elementary school counselors.

“We do small group counseling for kids [who] are adjusting to a variety of changes, and there’s an element of confidentiality that’s built into that group,” says Marie Weller, an elementary school counselor in Delaware, Ohio. “So I can’t do a group online. I can’t use Canvas or Zoom or Google Hangouts for a group because I can’t get the confidentiality. So [I’m] trying to figure out, how can I check in?”

Excerpted from “Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students” on NPR. Read the full article online.  You can listen to the podcast below:

Source: NPR | Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students, https://www.npr.org/2020/04/20/828026185/school-counselors-have-a-message-for-kids-it-s-ok-to-not-be-ok | © 2020 npr

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