More funds coming to help schools deal with threats

How Clay County using additional resources to 'look at the whole student'

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The need for additional funding approved last month by the Florida Legislature will help school districts deal with threats and prevent them from becoming reality.

For the second year since the massacre at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland the state has taken steps to improve school security. This session, lawmakers provided even more money for school hardening, mental health and expanded the School Guardian program to allow willing teachers to become certified to carry guns on campus -- if their school district allows it.

With threats to schools in our area seemingly happening daily and arrests of Putnam and Bradford counties students accused of making online threats in the past 48 hours, the help is sorely needed.

Based on its student population, Clay County schools will get $900,000 in additional funding for the next school year. 

School leaders met at Orange Park Junior High on Friday to talk about changing the physical structure of the school to make it safer.

“I know all of us kind of looked around and wondered, ‘Who have we missed here? What do we need to do differently for those kids if there is, in fact, something that we can do differently,'" said Mike McAuley, Clay County's assistant superintendent of climate and culture.

There is a lot that Clay County schools are doing differently. The district has hired more social workers and school psychologists and has added mental health counselors for the first time.

Perhaps more importantly, the district is trying to assure everyone is communicating with each other.

There's even a new coordinator for the school district's mental health services, Heather McDonald.

"It’s absolutely vital (that we talk to each other) because we all serve the child in a slightly separate way and we don’t want to duplicate our efforts either," McDonald said.

So when something disturbing happens, such as a threatening Snapcat post form an Interlachen High School student or by three Lake Butler High School seniors, authorities can respond quickly.

 McAuley said the end game for Clay County is not just discipline.

“We want to make sure when we hear those kinds of comments or begin to see things emerge that way, that we really consider why. What is the motivation and intent of some of these behaviors?" he asked.

McAuley wants school administrators and staff to look at the whole student and use the resources to ferret out why they are acting the way they are. He said students are so distracted by technology and social media, they tend to react before thinking about the consequences.

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