Mental health team helps school district amidst 2 tragedies
In response to recent tragic events within the Marshalltown Community School District, a crisis response team has been available for students and staff at Miller Middle School this week.
A Miller Middle School English teacher, 42-year-old Adam Eugene Edgington, was arrested last week for sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old student and he was then found dead the following Friday.
“We are able to support our students, staff and families through a collaborative effort between the Marshalltown Community School District, Central Rivers Area Education Agency and Center Associates,” MCSD Director of Special Services Matt Cretsinger said. “The purpose of this effort is to provide immediate crisis counseling services to anyone in need. The crisis response team is prepared to provide a range of support to children and families. Trained professionals are available to listen, process thoughts and feelings and connect with appropriate community resources based on individual need.”
He said the school district has long collaborated with area mental health agencies to service the mental health needs of students, staff and families.
Sarah Downey is a school social worker with Central Rivers Area Education Agency who is a part of the crisis response team working with Miller Middle School. She said the crisis response team helps take pressure off of school district employees.
“Oftentimes the school district personnel are just as close to the drama as everyone else, but they’re expected to be the people that kind of make the decisions and put out the communications,” Downey said. “Thankfully many school districts don’t go through this on a regular basis to have a really great plan that they just go with and everybody knows and are familiar with. So that’s what our crisis response team is for. We’ve been through it many times. We have a number of resources and we can be that neutral thinking able to help them be rational and reasonable.”
Mental health professionals from Center Associates are also brought in as familiar faces to make support as comfortable as can be, as the school district has an on-going established partnership with the agency.
The crisis response team also helps school officials with communication regarding tragic events by helping get the word out to families, providing guidance on how to talk to students and teachers about the situations and helping teachers know what to expect as far as student reactions.
From conversations with teachers and students, she has seen a combination of emotions in response to the recent events.
“There’s a little bit of anger, definitely sadness, a lot of questions and confusion,” Downey said. “What’s it going to look like in the fall? What changes are there going to be? Kids often fear change and the unknown. Especially the middle school age is kind of hard with sorting out the differences in emotion between being angry or sad or just being confused.”
While some students and staff may not feel emotionally connected or close to a recent tragic event, she said there’s always going to be teachers and staff who recall past trauma.
Cretsinger said it can be difficult to determine if a child is upset by an event or if they are traumatized, and encourages parents to seek help from professionals if they are unsure how to respond.
“The difference between a reaction to a stressor and a traumatic response is that reactions to trauma impact a child’s daily life and functioning,” Cretsinger said. “It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms may occur immediately after the trauma or weeks later. Parents and caregivers should be most concerned if a child is showing a significant change in mood or behavior in response to a stressor or for seemingly no reason.”
He said the school district places mental health as a top priority for students, staff and families.
Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.