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"Nothing is More Powerful than an Idea Whose Time has Come"
Victor Hugo is the French poet and novelist who is credited with the phrase, "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Much of his original French works had more to do with shifts from the battlefield to an arena of minds being open to ideas. But now, in 2019, his writings may be coming to life - through effective, collaborative advocacy efforts.
The clearest example of this has been my work in the state of New York. Over the past few years, as an agent of NYASP and with the support of NASP, I have been collaborating with the NYS School Boards Association (NYSSBA).
NYSSBA is the statewide voice for the interests of public boards of education. In general, school board members - who sit on local boards of education - are the educational leaders in their communities. They determine the policies that govern the operation of their local public school systems.
Our exchange of ideas originated in 2015 when "high stakes testing" reached a pinnacle in the state. Our two associations partnered on a report sounding an alarm on anxiety. The conversations around safeguarding our children became paramount.
A few years later, we asked difficult questions about whether schools had enough mental health support. This report was self-reflective but also took great strides in identifying the barriers toward greater well-being in our school communities.
As is typical with advocacy efforts, the more time you put into the relationships you build, the greater the rewards. And I certainly don't mean personal gain; but rather protecting and saving the lives of our youth. YES - some of our advocacy as school psychologists literally saves lives!
That is why when the topic of Suicide Prevention was discussed, the minds around the table were open and in harmony.
Banding together this past year was NYASP, local chapters of The Trevor Project and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Columbia University, NYS Office of Mental Health, the Suicide Prevention Center of NYS, and others. Once an updated guide was created, it was obvious that we wanted the NYS School Boards to prioritize this work and be a part of these efforts.
As the universe would have it and in a similar fashion, NASP had been working in tandem with several national associations to update their Model School Policy on Suicide Prevention. Taken together, these two documents, released in September 2019 for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, represent a clear model of how schools can offer solutions to the tragedy of suicide.
Rarely are so many forces working in concert to create such a hopeful outcome. Hence the lede for this blog, posited for the first time hundreds of year earlier, that suggests timing is everything.
Please consider this blog as an invitation. Use the story here as your own advocacy roadmap. Or share the documents hyperlinked with key stakeholders in your school, community, or state. Be sure to start the conversation (loudly) around safeguarding our students from harm.
As I am often quoted, although not nearly as romantic as Victor Hugo, when we as school psychologists advocate alongside others, "We Are Stronger Together!"
Dr. Peter Faustino, NASP Delegate - NY and proud member of NASP's Government & Professional Relations Committee