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Niagara Falls school supports students' social & emotional needs

“Kids come in with a lot of things going on"
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Posted at 5:58 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 17:58:54-04

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) — A new national survey outlines distributing trends of verbal or threats of violence against educators.

The American Psychological Association surveyed nearly 15,000 school teachers, social workers, psychologists, and other school staffers.

One-third of teachers reported one incident of verbal or threatening violence from students.

At a school in Niagara Falls, school leaders are working on student behavior and other emotional issues.

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Signs are posted inside the school.

Signs can be seen throughout Gaskill Preparatory School in Niagara Falls City School District, reminding students to be respectful, responsible, safe, and bully-free.

The teacher in this classroom allows students to sit on large rubber balls or relax on the floor as they learn.

“Kids come in with a lot of things going on, so it's not a surprise that some situations can get violent,” Derek Zimmerman, principal.

Principal Zimmerman says at his school, with serves about 500 7th and 8th-grade students, there has been an increase in students with mental health issues that can result in bad behavior.

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Derek Zimmerman, principal, Gaskill.

“At times we do see a lot of violence, however, I think we are focusing more on the de-escalate training and how to you know calm down a situation or issue before it gets to that point,” explained Zimmerman.

“You're seeing a lot of kids who are in an unregulated state. They are not aware of their emotions. They are not aware of the triggers that are causing them to react the way they are reacting,” remarked Andrea Douglas, social worker.

Gaskill Prep is working through the school day to help students with their social or emotional issues.

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Andrea Douglas, social worker at school.

Douglas is one of three social workers at the school. Just before 1 p.m. on Thursday she already saw about 8 to 10 students.

“You have to make them be aware of what they are feeling in the moment and how to address it. It's almost trying to help them make healthy decisions,” Douglas noted.

Douglas tells me students who threaten violence or act out react without thinking. She says she works to teach them accountability.

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Poster at Gaskill thanks social workers.

The school also has counselors on-hand who meet regularly with students.

“The biggest thing that I’ve seen this year, as an example, is anxiety with students,” remarked Joe Scrito, school counselor.

Scirto counsels 7th graders. He says he has not witnessed violence or threats against himself or teachers, but mostly students threatening other students.

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Joe Scrito, school counselor.

“Maybe they just need like a five-minute, ten-minute break, where they just can come down and vent. Maybe something happened at home or they're upset or something happened in class,” replied Scrito. “The student on student threats — they do happen, but most of the time we are able to intervene before something escalates.”

Douglas says some of the behavioral issues are coming from a student’s home life or even happening at school.

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Gaskill students.

But students who have sought help with the social workers are letting others know there’s help.

“‘Oh, there's actually someone here for us — there is actually someone who is willing to listen to me and not judge me or tell me it's all my fault from the beginning”, described Douglas.

Keeping Gaskill safe is a top priority.

Thursday was the first day the school started using new weapon detectors.

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New weapon detectors.

The principal says it helps everyone feel a little safer and offers another opportunity to engage with students.

“What we're finding is those small conversations we have with them in the morning is so helpful because you can kind of gage where hat student is at for the day,” responded Zimmerman.