SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

MENTAL HEALTH

It is normal for children and youth to experience various types of emotional distress as they develop and mature. Let’s be honest, today’s youth are dealing with a wide assortment of topics and stressors that many of us did not experience when we were there age. There is widespread cyberbullying, drug exposure, immigration issues, unstable home lives, body shaming, community violence and abuse just to name a few.

Some students are not equipped with the “tools” to effectively handle their emotions in situations. Sometimes these students will act out in school, not to get attention but to get help and guidance.  As a society we need to look more closely at these “difficult” students to figure out if there is an underlying issue or if it is typical ‘kid’ behavior. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance.

Here are some suggestions for Parents:

It’s okay to make mistakes.  Unfortunately, when you child is born the hospital does not send you home with a manual on how to raise them and address issues that might pop-up. Remember that you are human and you will make mistakes and its okay. Seek out parent support groups so that you can interact with other parents who are dealing with similar struggles. Keep trying until you find the thing(s) that work best for you and your child.

Conversation Matters. Let your child know that they can speak to you about anything they are thinking about without judgment. Let them know that you are there to help them with their thoughts, feelings and/or situations they are dealing with. Be sure you do not get angry or pass judgment. Really listen to what they have to say – you do not have to agree with them but they need to know you hear them. Depending on what they express to you, it may be wise to seek professional support for them.

Parental Presentation. Create a safe haven for them when they are struggling and/or in crisis. Let them know that you will give them some time and space to settle down. When you do talk to them, use a low and soft tone of voice and short statements.  Do your best to remain calm and stable during this period so that your stress does not exacerbate their feelings. Help them process by asking them questions that help them critically think about what they went through “What can you do the next time you are in a situation like this?” or “What made you feel better the last time you felt this way?”

Here are some suggestions for Teachers:

Start Fresh. Do not allow other colleagues opinions of a student cloud your judgment before you get to know the student yourself. Develop your own relationship with the student and ask them what works well for them when they are struggling.

Use your experience to guide you not to limit you. As a former teacher, I can still remember the names of the most “difficult” students that I worked with. I had to constantly remind myself that each student is different and just because Billy and Johnny have the same behaviors, it does not mean the same techniques and approaches that worked for Billy will work for Johnny.

Be Patient. Most of my “difficult” students wanted to do well in school and wanted a positive relationship with me and their peers. I disagreed with colleagues who called these students “slackers” and/or “trouble makers.” I sometimes had to remind myself that turning in a worksheet might not be high up on the student’s to do list especially if they are dealing with abuse and/or neglect at home.  I would find the good in what the student did and praised it so that they knew I was paying attention and their had work was not being overlooked.

Be supportive. Review your student’s IEP to see what suggestions are stated therein. Reach out to the school’s guidance counselor and see if there are any evidence-based programs that you could easily implement into your classroom routines. It would not only support your “difficult” child but the entire class as a whole. 

When should you seek additional support? 

  • If it's an emergency in which you or someone you know is suicidal, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.

  • If you can wait a few days, make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider or pediatrician if you think your child's condition is mild to moderate.

  • If your child's symptoms are moderate to severe, make an appointment with a specialized doctor such as a psychiatrist. You may need to contact your community mental health center or primary health care provider for a referral.

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

YOUR #1 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION SHOULD BE GETTING YOUR ESTATE PLAN IN ORDER

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So have you ever stopped to think about what will happen if you die? Now I'm talking about the philosophical argument about heaven/hell. I'm talking about what will happen to the people and things you leave behind? Being proactive and planning for your family’s future is a necessity in today’s world. If you do not take the time to plan, the state will step in and dictate what happens to your minor children and your worldly possessions. Wouldn't you rather be in control of what happens? 

In general, most estate plans will include at a minimum a combination of the following legal documents:

Will:

A will can fulfill several purposes. It nominates fiduciaries, provides the fiduciary with the authority they need to act and it disposes of probate assets. The will nominates a Personal Representative who will guide the estate through the probate process.  

Durable Power of Attorney:

A durable power of attorney is a document whereby one person, the principal, appoints another person, the agent or attorney-in-fact, to act as his or her attorney-in-fact. The person serving need not be an attorney so, to some extent, the term “attorney” is a misnomer. The attorney-in-fact, in effect, stands in the shoes of the principal and acts for him or her on financial, business, or other matters.

Health Care Proxy:

A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows you to name someone you know and trust to make health care decisions for you if, and only if, you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself.

Living Wills:

A living will sets forth the specific written instructions of the principal regarding his or her treatment preferences in various hypothetical situations. Living wills tend to focus on end-of-life situations and decisions about pursuing or terminating treatment, including life-sustaining measures.

Declaration of Homestead:

The Homestead Act allows Massachusetts homeowners to protect their home from future creditors.  The Act was updated and effective as of March 16, 2011. The updated Act allows homeowners to choose between an Automatic Homestead, which is effective without a written declaration and a written Declaration of Homestead. The amount of the Automatic Homestead protection is $125,000. When a written Declaration of Homestead is filed the exemption increases to $500,000. Both the homeowner and his/her spouse must sign the declaration form.

Contact Attorney Curran to discuss your  estate planning options: 

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

IS YOUR CHILD FACING CONSEQUENCES FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR AT SCHOOL?

What rules do the school's need to follow? 

The Massachusetts Statute that applies depends on what the student did:

  1. If the student brought drugs or weapons to school and/or assaults a member of the school staff Rule 37H applies.

  2. If the student is charged with a Felony and “principal or headmaster determines that the student's continued presence in school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school" then Rule 37H 1/2 applies.

  3. If the student's behavior does not fall into either of the above categories then their behavior will more likely than not be classified as a "violation of the student handbook" which would mean that Rule 37H 3/4 would apply.

School Discipline

Suspensions and Expulsions

There is a lot of if X then Y should happen in this area. You should seek individualized advice based on your specific student's behavior as soon as possible. Here are some general points to be aware of...

  • All students excluded for any length of time must be given the opportunity to make up all missed work. This includes projects, quizzes, tests, assignments etc.

  • Your student is entitled to hearing before they are suspended.

  • If your student is to be excluded for more than 10 school days, they are entitled to some form of educational service. This could be an alternative placement (see below), tutoring and in some districts online learning.

  • A recent decision from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Problem Resolution System (PRS) has reiterated the requirement that a suspended or expelled student must be provided with a minimum of two options for receipt of educational services (In re: Intake 1561).

  • If the school calls you and ask you to pick up your child due to the child's behavior, ask if the child is being suspended out. If they say NO but you need to pick the child up - then they are technically suspending the child as he's not being allowed to remain in school. Whether or not you go and pick up your child is a judgment call only you can make. But this call should be documented and if it happens enough you should ask for some changes (BIP, FBA, IEP Meeting are a few suggestions).

Interim Alternative Educational Setting

A student may be unilaterally placed in an 'alternative' educational setting for up to 45 school days for the following behaviors:  bringing weapons to school, bringing drugs to school and/or causing bodily harm or injury to a person while at school or a school sponsored event. These placements can be made without the consent of the parent but at the end of the 45 school days a Team meeting will be held to discuss what options are available to the student. 

This link will bring you to a chart that highlights the Massachusetts Student Discipline Statutes and Regulations on the state's Education Department website. 

If your student is a student with a disability, they receive more protections in discipline matters.

According to the IDEA, a student with a disability is a child who receives special education services as part of an IEP. A student also may be considered to have a disability even if the school has not tested or identified the child as such. If the school "knew or should have known" of the child's disability, the student may still be protected by special education law. (We will be sharing post that focuses on the rights of student's with disabilities and discipline in a few weeks.) 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

@emcurranlegal

Start the New Year off Right with a Review of your Legal Needs...

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Take the time now to review your legal needs and ensure you and your family are all set for the upcoming year.

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC offers a wide range of services, including but not limited to:

1. Special Education Advocacy and Attorney Guidance 

2. CORI Record Sealing

3.  Estate Planning

4.  Real Estate support

Have questions or concerns?  Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC
10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com
@emcurranlegal