Weatherford Democrat

Aledo ExtrA

March 11, 2014

Aledo ISD approves suicide prevention program


Suicide warning signs

One key factor that predisposes students to thoughts of suicide, Kessel said, is the failure to participate in “organized, structured activities where adults promote leadership and responsibility.”

Unrecognized medical conditions can come into play.

Students may raise warning flags by showing little interest in school, he said, or by exhibiting drastic changes in behavior like overeating, oversleeping or not eating.


The district began working to combat bullying in the fall of 2012, Kessel said, implementing a way for students, parents and teachers to report episodes online.

Counselors on every campus talked to their students about the problem, said Kessel, who also led meetings informing parents.

“My feedback is that students have an increased awareness of bullying and how to report it,” he reflects, “but they are reticent to do so because they fear retaliation.”

Another challenge, Kessel said, is deciding when the district should engage.

“[Bullying] sometimes happens via social media [off school grounds] and there’s no carryover,” he said, “yet parents want the school to do something about it.

“When reports are made administrators have to drill down to whether it’s taking place in a school setting with an impact on the educational environment.”

New McAnally pilot

In addition to LifeLines, trustees have approved an anti-bullying pilot curriculum for McAnally Intermediate sixth graders which will begin next year as part of social studies.

Developed by an international non-profit called Committee for Children, Second Step is designed to promote both social and academic success, Kessel said.

Offering instruction in empathy, emotion management and problem solving, the curriculum has been shown to lead to an increase in social confidence — specifically with sixth graders — a decrease in physical aggression and a decline in anxious and depressed behaviors, he said.

“As much of the research surrounding bullying behaviors points to a lack of empathy being a root cause for why kids become bullies, the SHAC was very interested in the program,” Kessel said. The curriculum, recommended by a McAnally social studies teacher, targets K-8 and will be taught in 15 multi-media-based lessons, he said, with reinforcement through individual and group activities.


Within the SHAC there are plans for a district-wide character education program to begin next year, Kessel said. “It will be integrated with Community Partners to promote a community of character,” he said, “not just about not bullying but how to act with integrity.”


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