Are Our Students Okay?

At the Wood-Ridge Board of Education meeting this past Monday night (September 21st, 2020), I asked a handful of questions having to do with how we are monitoring the mental and emotional health of our community’s students. I proposed a simple one question addition to the physical health survey parents are already filling out, a question to track the trend of our student’s health beyond that of being physically sick. This question would be simple: How are you feeling today, with numbers like 0-10 or an array of happy and sad faces for a student to indicate their feelings. Not only was I told that this wouldn’t be necessary, but that 95% of our students are already sad every single day that they aren’t in school, so this data wouldn’t make a difference.

95% of students are sad because of the situation they are currently in? That is terrifying.

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If 95% of them are sad in September only two weeks into school, what will they be in October? November? December? Depressed? I am asking for a simple survey, the data from which can be used to keep a pulse on the school district’s mental health, something that the entire state and country could use. If we see a continued downward trend we must make adjustments. The same way that if there is a spike in COVID cases then we have a problem, if we have a spike in mental illness cases we have an even bigger problem. I personally do not want to wait until it’s too late.

I was reassured though that the teachers are able to know how each of their students are feeling. Normally I would 100% agree, after all, they do spend 8 hours with these students a day. I have no doubt in the capabilities of the professional jugglers that we call teachers, but right now they have more than double the amount of balls to juggle. When we add in the fact that a lot of communication is lost through virtual classrooms, there is zero reason why a simple mental health survey question cannot be asked. It is hard enough for teachers, parents, and students to cope with virtual learning as it is, without needing to pay attention to each tiny blurry video square for signs of anxiety, stress, and depression.

I’m not asking to rewrite the book on education here, I’m asking to track the health of our students, the same way we are tracking COVID and its possible outbreaks. This takes some stress off teachers and parents, allows us to view trends, and may even reveal correlating information. If we don’t know where the issues lie and if they are getting worse, we are only setting ourselves up for further failure, and this idea would have nothing but benefits.

Case by case basis is okay, but accurate, quantifiable data is leaps and bounds greater. We need more data in our schools, we need to better understand what is going on, and go beyond the anecdotal evidence we are accustomed to. I am pushing this so much because this is only one part of a bigger problem having to do with information and the lack of its use. In Wood-Ridge, the state of New Jersey, and the rest of the country, we need to realize we are in 2020, the future, and we should start acting like it.

We have the technology to avoid/better address problems such as these, let’s start using it.

You can use this link to view the September 21st Wood-Ridge Board of Education. Due to technical difficulties, the opening of the meeting was cut off.

If you would like to contact me about anything else, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook, you may also text/call me at (201) 815–0657. I also have a website: https://www.dylanforboe.com/ where you can learn more about my campaign