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Shelby County's school safety plan includes counseling, other services for at-risk students...

Shelby County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles line part of the parking lot at Alabaster's Thompson Middle School on July 14, 2014, for a training program focusing on situations involving active shooters. Sheriff's deputies and the city's police officers are receiving training under the program.

(Martin J. Reed / mreed@al.com)
ByMartin J. Reed | mreed@al.com
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on September 09, 2014 at 1:38 PM, updatedSeptember 09, 2014 at 1:53 PM

SHELBY COUNTY, Alabama -- A law enforcement presence at schools and a massive construction project to improve security at building entrances are important parts of Shelby County Board of Education's ongoing safety plan.
But the organization's Safe Schools Initiative plan that involves a partnership with the County Commission, the Sheriff's Office and various municipalities for providing law enforcement at schools also includes counseling services available for students district-wide.

"We are also working with Gateway services for mental health counseling for our students who are at-risk," Lewis Brooks, the school district's assistant superintendent, said at the Shelby County Commission meeting in Columbiana on Monday morning. "We feel like that's part of looking at school safety as well."

The Shelby County Safe Schools Initiative that gained momentum last year following the Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012 in Newtown, Conn., has involved multiple facets for ensuring student and staff safety, Brooks said.

"This is an initiative that's all-encompassing. While it is about law enforcement, while it is about entrances, we feel like it's about training, which we've done a lot of training with the sheriff's department and other municipalities. It's about looking at students who are at risk, and we are doing that as well," he said.

The district is working with Gateway counseling agency to help students. The counseling is about providing services to students so they can "adjust and function better academically, socially and emotionally," according to documentation provided to commissioners on Monday.

The counseling services are available to students at their schools so there's no issue with transportation to a specific location to receive assistance, according to the district.
The district is also implementing a program called Learning Supports to help students with their school success.

"This framework recognizes the need to look beyond the classroom to provide support and interventions to students who have barriers negatively influencing their ability to learn and function at school," according to the district.

The pilot program at participating schools resulted in positive results that included "an increase in attendance rates, decrease in overall student absences, (and) a decrease in student suspensions, in-school suspensions, and alternative school placements," according to the district.



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