Superintendent's Letter on Mental Health Issues

October 14, 2002
A new letter (#6) is being sent to parents, students, and staff today [Monday, October 14] from the superintendent, and the text is below. The letter is available on the web at the link below.

October 14, 2002

Dear Parents, Students, and Staff:

The continuing stress of going to school under the threat of an attack can be a problem for both students and adults alike. This is why an effort to address mental health issues -- emotional, intellectual, physical, and behavioral reactions to stress -- has emerged as a major priority for the school system. These efforts are particularly important now that the ongoing threat has so disrupted regular school system functions. Our focus is on building resiliency so that people, both young and old, can adapt well in the face of adversity.

Part of our efforts is to find ways of restoring some level of normalcy while maintaining good security. This is difficult. Today, we opened schools under the Code Blue restrictions, prohibiting outdoor instructional and student activities, and this afternoon and evening the prohibition against outdoor student or public activities at schools was continued. We need to do this for obvious security reasons. But the restrictions themselves are creating stress, too. Therefore, it is important for all of us to work together to help our students, teachers, principals, and support staff “bounce back” from these difficult experiences. We know from the advice of mental health professionals, including our own school psychologists, that people regularly demonstrate skills of resiliency, and that these skills can be taught and encouraged.

For example, people who are resilient are often sociable, optimistic, flexible, self-confident, and in control in managing strong feelings. For children, the best way to learn and adopt such skills is to see them demonstrated by adults. This means that parents, teachers, and other adults who are important in the life of a young person need to be resilient themselves. They can do this by solving problems positively, modeling empathy and tolerance, promoting healthy discussions, and interacting warmly with minimal criticism.

A good source of information about dealing with stress and maintaining good mental health is the school system’s newly redesigned website [see link below]. The information includes tips on helping children cope with random community violence and helping adults cope with cumulative stress. Three new television programs also are being telecast on Cable Channel 34, including one in multiple languages (see the website for times). All of these efforts offer strategies adults can use to help children cope with stress through the current crisis.


Jerry D. Weast, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

<<Back to browse