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Parents urge Killingly school board to OK school-based mental health center

Killingly Board of Education Meeting
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Speaking on April 28 in support of a no-cost, school-based mental health center, Killingly resident Kristine Cicchetti told the town’s Board of Education, “I’m tired, I'm angry, I'm getting fed up. Like everybody has echoed here tonight, how long does this have to go on? How much information has to be presented to the board before you understand that this is needed?"

Parents and students in Killingly continue to push for a no-cost, school-based mental health center after the Board of Education tabled a vote to take action on Wednesday. A parent-led petition calling on the board to step up led to a public hearing Thursday.

“We are trying to get this resource for our kids,” said Christine Rosati Randall, a Killingly parent. “We’re exasperated because we’ve presented all the information needed just to have the school board dismiss them.”

The Board of Education rejected the proposal to open a school-based health center in March. Parents then pleaded their case at the state Board of Education’s April 6 meeting. The parents also filed a complaint with the state Department of Education on the grounds that the school district failed to provide mental health services to students in need.

The department found the complaint to be substantial and opened an investigation.

In a survey by SERAC of 477 Killingly students in grades 7-12, 14.7% “admitted to having made a suicide plan,” and 28.2% had “thoughts of hurting themselves.” In the first 92 days of the 2021-22 school year, there were “500 incidents where students were emotionally unable to stay in class and needed to access immediate counseling.”

“This is a really serious matter,” said Rosati Randall.“Every day that goes by, our students are not receiving this lifesaving support, and they’re not learning.”

Killingly Board of Education Meeting
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
“It just boggles the mind,” Killingly mom Christine Rosati Randall (standing) told the Killingly Board of Education in making a case for a school-based mental health center. “If you're not listening to the parents, students, staff, facts and data, who are you listening to?"

Parents said the pandemic has left many young people in town dealing with mental health problems. But some school board members who oppose the mental health center are in doubt as to whether enough numbers of students require mental health support.

Some board members have said they voted against the center because a counselor might offer a student advice that goes against the views of that student's parents.

If the proposal gets the green light, the school district would partner with Generations Family Health Center, which operates a school-based health center at Putnam Public Schools.

During a February informational session for the school board, staff at Generations said that from the initial contact, parent/guardian consent and involvement are initiated and emphasized as crucial to successful treatment. There would also be collaboration between Killingly High School’s clinical team and other health care providers on student needs.

The Board of Education has until May 6 to respond to the complaint.

Killingly Board of Education Meeting
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Ivy Ross (left) kisses daughter Emily Ross after the two addressed the Killingly Board of Education at a meeting April 28. Emily said during testimony that she endured regular bullying in high school due to her sexual orientation. “I have an emotionally literate parent, and I did not tell her,” she said. “I feel safe with her, and I still did not tell her. And I think that’s why it hurts so much to watch you debate this topic."