Geneva Case Illustrates NY Times Sunday Cover Story on Issues of School Violence, Mental Health

Geneva Case Illustrates NY Times Sunday Cover Story on Issues of School Violence, Mental Health

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 3.55.00 PM

A front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times centers on a Geneva student’s mental-health issues and how hard it is to diagnose and get treatment for troubled youth who have the potential to turn violent.

Published under the headline, “Seeing Sons’ Violent Potential, but Finding Little Help or Hope,” the article by Benedict Carey talks about the Serpico family’s odyssey through the health-care system as well as Geneva School District 304’s agreement to pay for the Serpicos’ son to attend a therapeutic school in Montana for one academic year.

“There will be horses, physical labor, and group and one-on-one talk therapy,” the article says. “Ms. Serpico and her husband broke the news to their son this month.”

Neither the 15-year-old son nor his parents could say whether the service would do the boy any good, but the parents needed to try something, because insurance companies were unwilling to pay for an alternative school, the article said. The Serpicos hired a lawyer and were able to get the Geneva School District to pay for the one academic year.

The 15-year-old has a history of violence — the article begins with an anecdote about the boy kicking his mother across the room — and he has received multiple psychiatric diagnoses.

The crux of the issue is what schools can do about potentially violent students in the wake of school shootings in places like Isla Vista, CA, and Newtown, CT. About one in 100 teenagers fits the category of “potentially violent,” according a psychiatric epidemiologist at Duke University School of Medicine cited in the New York Times article.

Kane County’s Regional Office of Education’s Regional Safe Schools Program does address some of the issues of expulsion-eligible and/or multiply suspended students. The statewide program, authorized through the Regional Offices of Education, began serving students in 1996 as established by the Illinois School Code to provide a system of alternative education programs for disruptive students.

“The purpose of the RSSP is twofold: 1) to increase safety and promote the learning environment in schools and 2) to meet the particular educational needs of disruptive students more appropriately and individually in an alternative educational environment. This is a cooperative effort between the Regional Office of Education and the local school districts. The programs within school districts are designed to meet local needs. In 2008-2009, 250 students were served through this program. Without this program those students would not have received an education and would have most likely become dropouts,” the ROE website says.

The New York Times article points out that solutions are few and far between, but the article effectively puts a spotlight on the problem.

“Most of these young men will never commit a violent crime, much less an atrocity. But the questions of how best to help them and how to pay for it are among the most intractable problems hanging over the system,” it says.