Stoneman Douglas Students Protest Lack of Mental Health Support
While some students believe the school could be doing more, a crisis expert says the district has done all they can to facilitate their resources.
Dozens of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students walked out of school Wednesday to protest a lack of mental health resources.
The student protest comes two weeks after two students – one current and one a recent graduate – took their own lives. Student organizers say the suicides have triggered PTSD in others.
“It’s really somber in school,” said freshman Hailey Jacobsen. “Everyone is worried and glancing around, who is going to be next?”
The walkout happened around 11 a.m. and lasted approximately 15 minutes, reports CBS Miami. Broward deputies were at the school blocking traffic to allow students to walk safely.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie held a press conference after the walkout, outlining the mental health supports that have been put in place since last year, including a wellness center on campus with over a dozen mental health counselors.
Two additional off-campus wellness centers – the Broward County Resiliency Center at Pine Trails Park and Eagle’s Haven in Coral Springs – have also been established.
“If you’re feeling stressed, you’re feeling depressed, you have any type of concern that we have specifically deployed and placed individuals at your school to help you, specifically, deal with whatever challenges you have,” Runcie said. “If you’re not comfortable in a school environment, we’ve created other opportunities outside the school.”
Although twenty-three additional trauma trained mental health professionals were brought to campus following last month’s suicides, many are concerned the most vulnerable students aren’t accessing those services and believe there is a disconnect between what is being offered and what students need.
“You have depressed kids, kids who don’t know how to talk out their problems, and yes, they have counselors there, but some of them don’t help as much as they should,” said sophomore Ty’Janai Thomas. “We sit here and talk with them, but what action is being taken behind the words?”
David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, said Broward County schools have been receptive to their advice and while the school’s efforts haven’t been perfect, he believes the district has been open-minded and done all they can to facilitate available resources, according to Local 10.
“We’re not going to get it 100 percent right for, you know, 3,000 students and over 200 administrators at this school and collateral ripple effects that have gone throughout the community – that’s just not realistic,” Runcie said.