A proposal making its way through the higher echelons of the Shawnee Mission School District administration would create a specialized setting for children with severe emotional issues, many of whom have experienced major childhood trauma.
By law, public school districts are required to provide a suitable education to all children who reside within their limits, regardless of background or behavioral troubles. But at present Shawnee Mission has issues providing the staff and facilities needed to accommodate some of the most troubled students. As such, the district contracts with organizations like Ozanam or Gillis that specialize in treating troubled youth to enact their Individualized Education Programs.
A proposal being reviewed by Superintendent Jim Hinson would transform the building that used to house Arrowhead Elementary School (it is currently being used for Crestview Elementary classes as that community’s new building is under construction) into a “therapeutic day school” that would allow the district to accommodate more of those kids.
“Each year we are placing more students in placements outside of the school district that have severe emotional, mental, behavioral health issues,” Hinson said Tuesday at a SuperChat question and answer session held at Hocker Grove Middle School. “We are contracting for their placement outside the school district. When that occurs…it’s extremely expensive. But that’s not the primary concern. The primary concern is that when you have students that you’re placing outside of the school district, you make it virtually impossible to really have parental involvement.”
The details of the plan — what grade levels would be served at first, how many students would attend, etc… — have not been finalized, but Hinson said the district planned to open Arrowhead as a therapeutic day school for the 2017-18 school year. Hinson suggested the district may look to serve between 50 and 70 students at the facility at the outset.
“We are seeing, like everywhere around the country, an increase – not at the severe level — but an increase in trauma in the lives of our kids,” Hinson said. “And students that are struggling to the point that it makes it very difficult for them to be successful in the regular school setting right now, generally because of things that have happened to them.”
Hinson recounted that he had spoken with an elementary principal last week who had a student transfer into the school who was living with his uncle under court order after having witnessed his father kill his mother.
“If that were us as a child, we wouldn’t function okay in the regular classroom,” Hinson said. “We’d need some help for a while.”
Hinson said the district planned to maintain its current programs for students with behavioral troubles at schools throughout the district, but some of the more severely troubled students in those programs may be transferred into the therapeutic day school setting.