Safety in school

Shane McCrink, Staff Writer

On December 20, 2012 one of the worst tragedies in American history occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The 20 year old mentally ill Adam Lanza killed 20 children and adults in a mass shooting. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) works to prevent tragedies like this from ever reoccurring.

In March, MDCPS began training teachers, janitors, and lunch ladies to identify early-warning signs of mental illness. A program is called “Typical or Troubled?”. The program will be provided at no cost to the district by the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF). The APF created the program as a response to the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in April of 1999.

The program will shows teachers how to recognize signs of mental illness so they quickly can get help for their students. Often teachers notice signs from teenagers but fail to distinguish normal teenage behavior from signs of mental illness, therefore inspiring the program’s title.

“It’s great to hear that the school system is taking these extra measures,” sophomore David Perez said. “Not that I don’t feel safe already at school, but it’s a relief to know that there is a lower chance of something tragic, like Sandy Hook , happening here.”

The training says that symptoms of mental illness include sleeping through class, rambling, bizarre writing and thoughts, and extreme risk-taking. Some studies have proven that 20 percent of children age nine to 17 have a diagnosable mental illness. Also, Miami-Dade county has a mentally ill population equal to nine point one percent, the largest percentage of people with mental illness of any urban community in the United States of America.

“It’s very interesting and comforting to know that the county is actually taking this event into consideration,” sophomore Keagan Rechel said. “I really hope it works because there are some crazy people in Miami!”

Through this program, the county looks to improve school safety and decrease youth violence. Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho endorses the program. The earlier a mental illness is detected the earlier it can be treated. As Superintendent Carvalho said we need mental detectors and not metal detectors at school. It looks like the mental detectors will be coming to Miami Palmetto Senior High soon.