Brandon Beauchamp often played “bus driver” during school recess.
Sometimes he would hang out with Mrs. Schaffer, a teacher aide who supervised recess.
His go-to person was Mrs. B., the lunch lady. He would bring in a plastic bag full of 100 pennies and buy warm, chocolate chip cookies from her in the morning.
“It gave me something to look forward to,” Beauchamp told a meeting of School-Related Professionals at a pre-RA Conference.
SRPs play an important role as a safe connection for many students, said Beauchamp, director of the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center. “They knew about how I was handling things.” Half of all mental illness presents by age 14 and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 14–18 year olds, he said. It is important to look at the context behind students’ behaviors, and SRPs need to be included in the team approach to the health and safety of students.
“We have to allow them a space at the table,” he said.
For many students, the SRP who serves them lunch, drives them to and from school, or handles their questions in the front office is a safe connection.
“You’re a trusted person,” said social worker and health advocate Mary Moller. It is equally important for SRPs to pay attention to their own health.
Self-care, she said, can be as simple as drinking enough water on a daily basis, taking regular walks, replacing screen time with quiet and getting professional help if needed.
“A lot of the pandemic stress we’re feeling is something we won’t even fully realize until a few more years,” said Ron Gross, NYSUT second vice president, whose office coordinates SRP initiatives for the union.