Metro schools taking steps to protect students’ physical and mental health

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Talk to any school district on either side of the state line, and you’ll hear that the safety of your child is paramount.

One initiative that’s in place at a lot of schools, especially those in Kansas because it’s the law, is something known as Emergency Safety Intervention.

“Really the focus is about de-escalation for students and implementing as many positive behavior support and least-restrictive alternative strategies before we move into an emergency safety intervention,” said Lori Stithem, assistant director of special education for the Lawrence School District.

ESI is a set of guidelines that requires a student be restrained or isolated if he or she poses an immediate danger to themselves or other students.

“I think it’s important because it puts the safety of the students at the forefront, and it makes sure that we are accountable for the safety of all students,” Stithem said.

Teachers and staff are trained on what’s allowed and what isn’t, but Stithem said the method is a last resort.

“We here at Lawrence Public Schools really encourage proactive and preventive strategies,” Stithen said. “We’re always looking to exhaust all measures before (ESI) would be necessary.”

Your child’s mental health is equally important. Lee’s Summit High School is one of 13 schools in the metro that is now participating in the “You Be You” campaign.

“’You Be You’ is going to be branded all over the school, messages in hallways, possibly in the restrooms with murals,” said Shane Ringen, assistant principal at Lee’s Summit High. “There’s a lot of signage.”

The student-led program focuses on self-acceptance and takes depression and other teen issues from a positive perspective.

“Everyone’s different, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do because you are accepted, and you are loved by so many people, and I think a lot of kids don’t understand that,” said Caitlyn Riley, a junior at Lee’s Summit and a member of the schools “You Be You” team.

The initiatives listed are just a couple examples in place to remind students that educators are looking out for them.

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