Douglas County

School forums aimed at safeguarding kids

District invites parents to discuss current programs, future ideas

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The Douglas County School District is inviting parents to help it protect their children. A series of forums, triggered by the loss of several students to suicide and other 2014 incidents, are planned this month.

The series, “Safeguarding Children: Building Resiliency,” began April 9 at Parker’s Chaparral High School and continues April 16 at Highlands Ranch’s ThunderRidge High School and April 23 at Castle Rock’s Castle View High School. All the forums are planned from 6 to 9 p.m.

Local law enforcement officers, mental health experts and school staff will join to discuss using physical and psychological safety measures to protect students’ wellbeing.

Four Douglas County teens were lost to suicide between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11 — a number equal to the total of teen suicides in the county in 2013.

DCSD is seeking parents’ input and involvement in creating a safe haven for students.

“We’re really looking for this to be interactive with our parents, to really talk about the things we have in the community and our district for supporting children, and the way those things overlap to keep kids safe,” said Jason Germain, DCSD’s chief student advocacy officer.

The forums are “not a sit-and-get-lectured style format,” he said, but will invite parents to participate in tabletop exercises and discussion with DCSD staff. A resource fair will feature community partners like Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network and Children’s Hospital.

DCSD also is involved in a longer-term evaluation of its mental health staffing levels.

At about 900-to-1, DCSD’s ratio of students to counselors is well below the 250-to-1 level recommended by the American School Counselor Association. When elementary schools — which don’t have counselors — are excluded, the ratio of students to counselors at the middle and high school levels is 350-to-1, according to DCSD staff.

“What we’re doing now is we’re integrating requests from principals, school counselors, (and other) members of our teams (to learn) what they are indicating is needed in our buildings,” German said. “Instead of just haphazardly assigning resources, we’re taking a larger district stance around that.”

That report eventually will be taken to district leaders for their response.