During Monday's Neosho School Board meeting, board members heard from Chris Parks, with Restoring Hope of Neosho, about putting in mental health counselors into school.
During Monday's Neosho School Board meeting, board members heard from Chris Parks, with Restoring Hope of Neosho.
"The state of Missouri Department of Health has approved the ability for mental health officials to go into school buildings and be fully reimbursed through that providers Medicaid number," said Parks, a counselor with Restoring Hope. "So the school is not on the hook for anything, the only thing they are on the hook for is to offer us space and the approval to come in... The mental health needs within a school are so extreme that there are so many kids that are not even being found, not even being aware, they are not being listened to, it is an enormous need. We have so many social stresses going on, electronic media, broken down family, we have all of these things happening, we have kids trying to navigate through a system that says 'go to school, sit down, do your work, and then you are gone.' There is no relationship, there is no abilities to help kids through difficult times. that is what mental health coming into our buildings will provide, we would hope to see a decrease in behaviors. we would hope to see a decrease in self-harm behaviors, we want to prevent suicide."
Parks then introduced David Doty, father of Kassady Doty, 15, who committed suicide back in May of this year. David Doty presented a letter to the board members.
"The big thing was the things that my daughter had to deal with. She was actually sexually assaulted in the (Neosho) middle school," he said. "The thing that I told them (board) that I was upset about, was that she got punishment for a silly badge that was equal to what was given to kids who were grabbing her (in certain places on her body) in the hallways in the middle school. This was something that didn't happen off property, this was in the building."
The letter went on to list other incidences.
David then talked about bullying in schools and gave an example of a school district in South Carolina and their cell phone policy.
"(In a South Carolina school district), where you walk in the front door as a student, power down your phone, put it in a cloth envelope and they seal it with those safety devices like on retail clothing, then you are given your phone back but it is sealed and unusable unit the end of the day," he said. "Because when we were growing up, we got bullied at school, we would either learn how to dodge it or you punched them in the face. If I had raised my girls the way that I wanted to, that is what they would be doing and they would have been in more trouble with the school district than the guys or girls who were causing trouble."
"(Growing up) we school was done, we went home and we were safe. but with phones (now), Facebook, SnapChat and all of the other stuff, it is 24/7 and if we can't have a 'safe zone' in the school which is what they are all screaming about 'safe zones in the school,' then it is 24/7 forever," he said. "One of the ideas that I had is that they need to banning them (phones) or simple expediency of a lockup system so that they don't use them during the day. It is bad enough to deal with somebody face-to-face who is bullying you, but when you have got to coming from you every angle, all day long, then there is no way for them to deal with that."
Parks would like to see conversations.
"What we want to do is that we have got to start a conversation. We have got to start a conversation, there is a simple fact that kids are not the same as what kids were when we were kids," said Parks. "The electronic age that electronics psychologically are changing the brain. Little kids are not as able to function relationally or emotionally, the same way that we did. So you get more addictive kind of behaviors because eevery time they fire up the phone, get a 'like' it creates those endorphins, it is the same thing that happens when you hit the jackpot or the same thing that you do when you take a hit of crack and every time that you do it, you getting fed. So as they are getting fed, they are loosing the ability to interact, loosing the ability to cope to become more impulsive, because that part of the brain it is addictive, it is an addictive brain."
Parks said he will be back to talk to the board of education.
"I will come (back) until I can't function anymore," he said. "I am done sitting, I am done (being) on the sidelines anymore, I am done with that."
Doty added, "I really have not been a participant in the school, as a whole other than supporting my kids, this probably turned me into an activist. ... The night that it (Kassady) happened, I would have not guessed it to happen. There was no way that that girl was going to do that, because she was happy and fun, having a good time, and two hours later, I got woke up in the middle of the night by screaming and finding her."
Parks noted there have been between 13 and 14 current students or those had graduated from Neosho High School that had died by suicide or overdosing.
"That number is staggering, that does more death than there has been through car wrecks, through sickness, through another form of death," said Parks. "It stands to reason that there is something that is different about how we are approaching things here... she (Kassady) was an activist, I am not going to let that die."