Proviso West To Boost Supports, Screen Students For Anger Issues

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A wall inside of Proviso West High School. | 

Proviso West High School will soon start screening, and offering more resources to, students who demonstrate symptoms of reactive anger and trauma.

The move — one of the first major instructional realignments since the school’s new principal, Nia Abdullah, took over last July — comes in the wake of reports that the number of physical confrontations at West have markedly increased over last year.

“For example, for the 2017-2018 school year, there has been an increase in physical confrontations (from 71% of days with no physical confrontations to 53% this year), and the primary mechanism for addressing this has been exclusionary practices such as out-of-school suspension,” according to district memo drafted last month.

School officials noted in the memo that West currently utilizes restorative justice practices and offers a range of social work services to address certain behaviors, but those services aren’t based in research.

“To address the root cause of these behaviors, Proviso West has developed a behavioral health team that will screen students for trauma, reactive anger, and other behavioral health concerns that impact student learning,” officials explained.

“The team’s first priority,” they added, “will be to address the reactive anger symptoms being displayed daily by a number of Proviso West students and parents.”

Officials at West, the memo notes, have “analyzed data regarding student misbehavior and identified more than 300 students who self-reported having anger issues.”

During a regular meeting on Dec. 12, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board unanimously approved a $18,930 contract with Chicago-based Lurie’s Center for Childhood Resistance to administer training to school leaders in a program called Think First.

“Think First is a research-based cognitive behavioral intervention to address aggression in schools,” officials explained in the memo. “It allows the school to improve the behaviors of students who display symptoms of reactive anger through a systematic approach that focuses on prevention and teaching nonviolent interpersonal skills.”

The D209 school board also unanimously approved Memorandum of Understanding between West and Youth Outreach Services, a Chicago-based nonprofit that focuses on the development of at-risk young people, so that YOS can offer multi-tiered support services, such as small group counseling, for students who need them.

“Youth Outreach Services provides comprehensive services across all program areas depending on student needs,” district officials said in the memo. “They offer services and activities that promote social engagement, manage and improve negative behaviors and build self-confidence.”

A range of professionals at West, including counselors, social workers, school psychologists and parent coordinators, among others, will be trained in the Think First curriculum.

According to a draft implementation timeline included in the memo, staff training in the new support services, along with student screenings, were scheduled to take place in December and January.

Students are scheduled to start meeting in a series of pilot Think First small groups from Jan. 29 through April 27. Evaluations on the outcomes of the small groups is scheduled for sometime in June. VFP 

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