New positions added to help with student mental and behavioral health

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV)— Rockingham County Public Schools introduced new positions this year, aimed at helping with student behavioral and mental health.

New mental and behavioral health positions were added this year in Rockingham County Public Schools. | Credit: WHSV

Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl said it all started a year ago at a retreat in Winchester. Dr. Scheikl said it became apparent that more help was needed for students who had dealt with traumatic situations.

"We need to provide the help that they need to get to that point where they can learn," Dr. Scheikl said. "We oftentimes talk about higher-order thinking skills, but you can't address those until you feel a sense of safety and belonging."

Crisis counselors were added to staff last year, and this year, the school system hired eight behavioral support assistants. Those assistants will be placed in elementary schools throughout the county.

Dr. Scheikl said those assistants will be in the classroom every day, taking notes on student behavior, helping those who might be going through issues, and understanding why a student might be acting out.

Those assistants will be working with school administration and other professionals to address student needs. Dr. Scheikl said they'll also be working to create a baseline for students, to see what their version of a good day is, and how their behavior differs.

"Is the behavior that we see today very different from the baseline," Dr. Scheikl said. "And what are some strategies that we can use to get that student to the good day."

Dr. Scheikl said it's not just students who may have faced trauma that might need help. It could also be the students in all honors classes, or athletes, who need help dealing with stress. Dr. Scheikl said it's his job to help find ways to remove barriers that could be preventing students from learning.

"There will be students in our schools who come to school with barriers to fully participate in the learning environment, " Dr. Scheikl said. "And now, we can work on those barriers."

In addition to the behavioral support assistants, Dr. Scheikl said they've also added another behavioral specialist and more board-certified behavioral analysts. They also added more early intervention counselors through the community services board.