Social & Emotional Wellbeing
Accurate as of August 31, 2021
Reopening Mandatory Requirements
In planning for school re-opening in September, Nassau BOCES formed multiple teams to examine the guidance provided by the Department of Health and NYSED for our re-entry in the Fall. Our team's work is grounded in our beliefs that the health, safety, and well-being of the children and adults in our schools are deeply interconnected. Nassau BOCES is committed to prioritizing the social and emotional well-being of our staff, students and their families and will provide support and resources during the school year.
As we plan for reopening, we should consider that students and staff may be experiencing adverse experiences and stressors. Prolonged isolation and physical distancing measures, death and illness and economic impacts can have effects on children and adults in some cases causing trauma. We know from brain research that lack of safety and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impede a child's ability to learn. Research also supports evidence that students who attend schools prioritizing SEL, have better outcomes such as higher academic achievement, more prosocial behavior, fewer conduct problems, and reduced emotional distress. Re-opening plans should include clear and effective Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies for staff and students. Schools should aim to address school community members who might emerge from this pandemic with mental health conditions.
Suggested strategies to address student social emotional health include:
- Teachers should also watch for unusual behavior, such as frequent absences or trips to the nurse's office, which could be symptoms of anxiety or other mental health issues.
- Teachers can promote mental health by having students practice deep breathing and meditation and share their feelings during morning meetings. Educators also should tell students it’s fine to feel nervous or uncomfortable as they readjust to school.
- Educators also can adopt a "trauma-informed" approach, which recognizes that children who have endured hardships might act out or shut down in the classroom.
- Schools can offer social-emotional learning, which trains students how to identify emotions, manage stress, and other healthy habits.
School Counseling Program
Nassau BOCES has a district-wide and building-level comprehensive developmental school counseling program that has been developed under the direction of certified school counselor(s). This plan will be reviewed and updated to meet current needs at the beginning of the school year. The plan will include the expanded use of data to identify SEL needs and incorporate strategies to meet those needs in the agency or school's comprehensive school counseling plan. Such data may include school climate surveys, screening tools and questionnaires.
Nassau BOCES' district-wide and building-level advisory councils comprised of various stakeholders meet throughout the year to review the comprehensive developmental school counseling program plans and ensure the program is being implemented with fidelity and that it is meeting current needs. Team members will undergo further professional development and training as to develop “expertise” in areas around SEL and Mental Health. Such expertise development will allow staff to turnkey specific SEL and Mental Health strategies.
Resources & Referrals
Nassau BOCES schools will communicate with families of enrolled students to determine if there are concerns about returning, verify contact information, immunization, medical concerns, recent medications, change of family dynamic, etc. View an example of a comprehensive checklist that is being considered for adoption by Nassau BOCES➚.
Nassau BOCES staff will identify potential stressors in students and ensure that counselors are available to assist. Stressors include:
- Loss/sickness of parents, grandparents, friends, school members, etc.
- Learning loss or missing assignments or schoolwork
- Secondary traumas
- Increase of abusive tendencies
- Increased anxiety/stress
- Change in routine
- Unemployment situation/ job loss
- Constant bad news
- Previous mental health issues worsening
Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) staff will develop a process for screening students for trauma and ensure that appropriate staff are trained to implement the process. They will review what actions to take when a student screens positive for a mental health crisis or at-risk behaviors are observed by the classroom teacher, either in person or during remote instruction.
As part of Nassau BOCES Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework, universal school wide SEL, mental health and well-being supports will be available to all students. Once student needs are broadly and individually identified, activities and services can be developed to address those needs.
Information on community agencies and helpline services is readily accessible to school personnel and available to parents and guardians on the Nassau BOCES website (NOTE: if there is consensus on this list of resources this should be posted to the Nassau BOCES website) and by visiting the Nassau County Mental Health Resources page.
Professional Development Opportunities
Nassau BOCES will provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on how to talk with and support students during and after the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as provide supports for developing coping and resilience skills for students, faculty, and staff. Specific coursework may include Mental Health 101, Restorative Practices, Suicide Awareness, Resiliency and Coping Skills, Trauma Informed Practice, Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, Anti-bias, Anti-discrimination, and Effective Communication training.
School psychologists will be trained to use the PREPaRE model which is a framework that describes the full range of school crisis-related activities from prevention to recovery. P (prevent and prepare for psychological trauma), R (reaffirm physical health and perceptions of security and safety), E (evaluate psychological trauma risk), P and R (provide interventions and respond to psychological needs), and E (examine the effectiveness of crisis prevention and intervention).
Providing training to deepen stakeholder understanding of mental health, well-being, trauma-responsive and restorative practices, and SEL through professional learning, and working collaboratively with staff, students, and families will strengthen partnerships and cooperation in implementing this plan.
Adult Social Emotional Learning & Well-being
Nassau BOCES is committed to supporting and equipping all staff to connect and build capacity to support our students. Supports and resources from Curriculum, Instruction & Technology will include, Wellness Wednesdays, mental health check-ins and mindfulness sessions. Opportunities for planning and goal setting, self-reflection, and social interactions are already being implemented in our schools and will continue throughout the year. Additionally, all Nassau BOCES employees have access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers many free services including face-to-face and virtual counseling. Information about all social-emotional supports will be made widely available to the Nassau BOCES staff through the Employee Section found on our website.