Training for dealing with Oklahoma schoolchildren who are mentally ill and potentially violent has been added to the courses offered by the Oklahoma School Security Institute.
“Mental health is a large component of school security,” Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said. “Nobody in their right mind goes into a school harming children.”
Lamb chaired the Oklahoma School Security Commission that recommended changes in state law that were approved last year. The changes are designed to improve security and safety in Oklahoma's common schools.
Lamb said it was clear to commission members early on that an important component of school security would be training school administrators and teachers to recognize mental illness so they can intervene to prevent a crisis or act to de-escalate a crisis once one develops.
Working closely with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma School Security Institute has selected an 8-hour training course called “Mental Health First Aid for Youth” that is now being offered to schoolteachers, school staff members and others, such as law enforcement officers and public safety officials.
The course is designed to help participant recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, stresses the importance of early intervention and teaches individuals what to do in a crisis, officials said.
Kim Carter, director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, said the first mental health course was offered a couple weeks ago and had about 130 enrollees.
Additional such training sessions currently are scheduled for Jenks and Norman, Lamb said.
The Oklahoma School Security Institute has been training school officials and others on a variety of security issues since it was created in July 2013.
So far, 14 two-day school security seminars have been conducted across the state that have been attended by officials from 129 school districts that represent 228,000 students and 12,000 teachers, Lamb said. Training also was provided to representatives of seven career technology institutions, six colleges and 15 private schools, officials said.
The institute is now developing specialized training courses that deal with such topics as planning for multiple hazards, school bus security, how to conduct security assessments, crisis communications, tactical medical response and developing a survival mindset.
Mental health is a large component of school security. Nobody in their right mind goes into a school harming children.”