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Fairfax Cty, VA: District may add 18 mental health specialists at a cost of $2.3M

July 21, 2018, Reston, VA, Fairfax Cty Times; FCPS recommends cameras, more mental health specialists for school safety

Fairfax County Public Schools might add mental health specialists, expand its closed-circuit television camera system, and enhance staff training, among other potential steps, based on a review of the district’s internal security practices. …

In addition to enhancing training and communication for employees and administrators, OSS recommends that FCPS create 18 additional positions for mental health specialists, such as psychologists or social workers, and install exterior and interior CCTV cameras system-wide….

While staff considered increasing the presence of police officers and arming school security, the report focused more on refining existing measures, such as electronic door access for visitors, and improving students’ mental health.

At a public hearing held by the Fairfax County School Board at Luther Jackson Middle School on July 12, representatives of groups such as the Fairfax County NAACP and the Fairfax County Special Education Parent-Teacher Association expressed concern that efforts to protect schools from potential threats could come at the expense of students of color and students with disabilities….

Black students make up about 10.1 percent of FCPS students, but they accounted for 34 percent of the arrests made by SROs in 2017 compared to 410 arrests involving white students, who constitute 38.7 percent of the school district’s more than 188,000 students, according to the FCPD’s 2017 annual report and enrollment data from the Virginia Department of Education’s School Quality Profiles database.

According to Fairfax County SEPTA board member Rachna Sizemore Heizer, students with disabilities account for 12 percent of student enrollment nationally but 25 percent of those arrested or referred to law enforcement. Students with disabilities are 14 percent of the FCPS student population but 40 percent of the discipline referrals….

According to the report, adding SROs to elementary schools would carry a cost of $18 million, and adding other security personnel would cost between $5 and $9 million depending on if they are armed and whether they are security specialists, uniformed school security, or regional school security. Instead, the report recommended spending $800,000 to add eight new training positions that would conduct more tabletop exercises, which are already used to analyze potential emergency scenarios and evaluate crisis management plans but occur every two or three years rather than annually….

The 18 new mental health specialists recommended by the report would cost $2.3 million….

“I’ve been saying in Richmond for a long time that more guns in schools isn’t the answer,” Simon said. “The emphasis ought to be on providing mental health services and other services that give support to our students, not to turn our schools into prisons or fortresses and not to create an us-versus-them situation between the administration and the kids. It’s reassuring to hear that that’s almost exclusively what we heard from the folks testifying today.”

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