What do you say when a third grade student asks a trusted teacher if she is safe from violent intruders in the school? Who champions implementation of a dormant school wellness policy in order to support students with the best nutrition and physical activity choices? How do you press past frustration with social factors that impact the health of children and youth? On this National Healthy Schools day we ask: How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) envisions school communities where students are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Violent acts, such as school shootings, threaten the safety and well-being of students and school staff; action must be focused on common sense solutions. As with complex and multifaceted situations, a multi-disciplinary approach enables interventions.
What we do know is that a healthy school environment begins with a student-centered collaborative approach by leaders within schools and communities. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model centers on the whole child and incorporates 10 components vital for a healthy and safe school environment.
The WSCC model components include:
- Counseling, Psychological & Social Services
- Social & Emotional Climate
- Physical Environment
- Employee Wellness
- Family Engagement
- Community Involvement
- Health Education
- Physical Education & Physical Activity
- Nutrition Environment & Services
- Health Services
That third grade student who wonders if she is safe from violent intruders in her school relies on the trusted teacher who depends on the school administrator who convenes an emergency preparedness of staff and community partners to plan, mitigate, train, and practice response to the plan. The specialized instructional support team, i.e., school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, and school social worker, focus on counseling, psychological, social and emotional climate.
A new school nurse who found an untapped wellness policy in her school district organized a wellness committee that would oversee implementation of wellness policy activities. Parents, school superintendent, principals, school nurses, and community members became the wellness committee. After completing the CDC’s School Health Index – a self assessment and planning tool – the wellness committee had the information needed to learn the school strengths and growth opportunities. The next step involved identifying recommendations to foster a healthy and safe school environment.
Another aspect of attending to student well-being is to acknowledge the factors that are barriers to health. School nurses assess social determinants and connect students and families with community resources that may address those factors.
NASN’s vision is for all students to be healthy and safe in schools. Now is the time for making schools healthy and safe environments.
Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE
National Association of School Nurses