Austin (KXAN) — As part of our Save Our Students project, KXAN is sitting down with superintendents from a handful of school districts in the Austin area to talk with them about how their campuses are addressing mental health issues. These superintendents have a conversation live on the KXAN morning show followed up with an in-depth conversation on mental health and wellness with Digital Reporter Alyssa Goard.
Lake Travis Independent School District
Superintendent Dr. Brad Lancaster
“I think it’s a topic we just talk about more,” Lancaster said of bringing the discussion around mental health in schools to the forefront. This will be his 36th year working in education.
This summer, LTISD hired a licensed, clinical social worker who will respond to crisis situations and work in collaboration with school counselors across the district.
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“This person’s job is to react to crises, and when she gets a phone call, she will go to the campus and intervene with that student, work with that family, and ultimately over a period of weeks get them some help in our community,” Lancaster said.
LTISD also employs many counselors, one at each elementary school, two or three at middle schools and eight at the high schools.
Last year, the district also brought on a safety officer, a person who retired from the Austin Police Department after more than 20 years and now advises the district on things like building security and emergency drills. Additionally, the district is trying to work with local law enforcement to make sure their campuses and families all understand the terminology that’s being used related to both drills and threats. Lancaster believes one of LTISD’s successes in the realm of mental health is a “Cavs Who Care” tipline where students, staff, and community members can submit tips on anything from threats against the district to reports of bullying. Already, the tip-line has helped the district. Lancaster explained that it can lead to police knocking on a family’s door to check on a student in extreme cases and in other situations can lead to a simple conversation with students after a misunderstanding.
“Most of our tips come from our secondary grades, 6th through 12th grades, but we still get some occasionally for elementary school and depending on which campus is identified, that tip goes to the campus principal, a counselor and two or three district-wide people who monitor all of the campuses, so instantly we know if there’s a problem going on,” Lancaster explained.
KXAN will also be interviewing superintendents from Hays CISD, Austin ISD, Georgetown ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Round Rock ISD, and Leander ISD as part of our continuing coverage of the solutions districts are turning to when it comes to addressing mental health and wellness.