Online portal offers training for teachers to help troubled teens

How school administrators are working to identify and prevent threats of school shootings

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A video by the non-profit organization, Sandy Hook Promise tackles the issue of school shootings head-on. Those shootings have prompted serious conversations about keeping our kids safe.

The viral video looks harmless. It shows children going back to school, but it quickly turns into the hurtful reality that so many families are still dealing with the aftermath of school shootings.

Here in East Baton Rouge Parish, administrators are figuring out ways to prevent it. Warrant Drake, Superintendent of EBR Parish Schools, says students must realize that threats, prank or not, will not be tolerated.

“That’s not a joke. When you threaten someone individually, we’re going to take that seriously,” Drake says.

EBR Parish Schools are turning to a proactive approach with the help of I Care specialists like Ashley Castello.

“We try to help them think of other ways they can handle the situation,” Castello says.

Castello is an I Care Specialist for the district. Castello is similar to a counselor in that she helps students battling mental health, social, or emotional problems. Castello says they teach students to cope with the issues. I Care specialists often get referrals from teachers or administrators.

“We teach them how to examine consequences and think about consequences first and not acting,” she says.

The district is launching what they’re calling a Safe Schools Portal that enables teachers to move at their pace. The online portal allows teachers to watch videos that will show them how to understand kids dealing with a wide variety of issues. The videos can also be assigned by an administrator. Castello says right now there are 22 courses on mental health, social, and behavioral issues. She says new material is constantly being added to the portal.

Castello says knowing the signs to look for in a child possibly dealing with hurtful thoughts, is half of the learning process. Castello mentions a couple of signs and symptoms to look for are: “Change in appearance, if they start to look dis-shelved or they’re not being well taken care of or loss of interest in things they used to be passionate about."

Castello also says this training is about learning how to meet the student where they are.

“If a student is super agitated, you want to make them calm down and come back down to a level where you can talk to them and have a discussion,” she says.

Superintendent Drake says additional security improvements are in the works, including securing the entrances at all schools. Drake says school visitors will no longer be able to walk straight into the building, the entrance will be locked.

Copyright 2019 WAFB. All rights reserved.