As a parent of two, it was not long ago that I can recall the deep sense of relief that came with receiving a text from my daughters that they were home safe from school.
In today’s landscape, the concept of school safety has changed dramatically. Active shooter drills are routine and entering onto a school’s campus is an entirely new experience than it was a decade ago. The certainty of school being a safe space has diminished. For most students, home is a place where they know everything will be alright. Sadly, for some of our students at Vista, their home environment does not provide that same sense of security.
For students who experience domestic violence, emotional abuse, and neglect, home is not a place where they know everything will be “alright here.” That is why the safe, nurturing, and therapeutic environment that Vista provides is so important.
The safety of our students is given the highest priority, from providing a secure campus to having adequate staffing levels that can work with youth both individually and in groups to proactively address conflicts before they arise. In addition, staff are trained to provide a calm and caring approach when interacting with students.
Often I am asked how we respond when students who struggle with behavioral challenges act out aggressively. All of our staff are trained in a trauma-informed approach of care; acknowledging that these behavioral challenges are often times a manifestation of past trauma. This approach allows our staff to look beyond the behavior and help students develop new coping mechanisms to life stressors. The healing process can occur because of the relationship our staff builds with the youth in a safe and nurturing environment like Vista.
We are also having an impact on students outside of the Vista school. Clinicians from our Mental Health Division, Family Service of Santa Monica, provide accessible school-based services to large schools such as Santa Monica High School. These services help students cope with rising academic and social pressures. I was honored to participate in the thirty-third annual Broker Challenge, a day of competition that raises funds and awareness for these very services. Corporate involvement is so important because those employees become ambassadors for our cause and help us spread the word in waves that can cause a powerful ripple effect which garners support for our children and families. This has a far greater reach than anything we could do on our own.