Tuesday, July 22, 2014
   
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School counselors more involved than ever in students’ lives

Wiggins, Glodowski of GHS discuss roles at Stakeholders meeting.

Gone are the days when students seek out counselors for ACT test or scholarship applications.

These days guidance counselors at Gothenburg Public Schools see kids for a myriad of reasons such as dealing with the breakup of a relationship or thoughts of suicide to dating violence and much more.

“We are there as advocates for the students,” said high school counselor Jerry Wiggins.

Interestingly, Wiggins said they have the most contact with students dealing with social issues around social events—like homecoming, coronation and prom—and the holidays.

Students with academic concerns often visit counselors at the beginning and end of the school year and when scholarships are due.

Wiggins and Pam Glodowski, who counsels students grades four through eight, spoke to 29 Stakeholders at a noon meeting Feb. 2 at Gothenburg Public Library.

Stakeholders are community members who are invited to meetings on different educational topics. They are then asked to share what they learn with at least three other people.

Students who see counselors are usually referred by staff, parents or other students.Sometimes they stop in on their own.

In most situations, Wiggins and Glodowski said they assess students by:

seeing whether or not the student is in immediate danger of being harmed, is harming him or herself or others.

finding out if the issue is affecting academic performance. Wiggins said school is sometimes an escape from dysfunctional circumstances at home.

looking at family dynamics and making sure the student has access to resources such as a church, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and others.

Wiggins pointed out that the counseling staff isn’t trying to take the place of parents.

However in the case of three homeless seniors this year, counselors and others step up to the plate.

“The more people in the circle to help, the better off they’ll be,” he said.

Confidentiality a challenge

Confidentialty when meeting students can be a slippery slope, he said, because there are certain things—such as child abuse—they are required to report.

“If the student is in immediate danger, we’ll report it,” Wiggins said, adding that he’s called police to perform a welfare check on students in the middle of the night when he’s received text messages indicating they might be in danger.

Their job, Glodowski said , is to look out for welfare of students.

Another thing counselors do, especially when bullying is involved, is to ascertain whether it’s harassment or conflict.

“And 900 people in a building will have issues,” he said.

Wiggins defined conflict as something that happens when a person and/or group starts a rumor, calls someone names, etc. and the other person/group responds with similar attacks.

“Students cannot claim harassment if they are retaliating before they involve an adult,” he said.

Harassment is behavior repeated over time to the same person and/or group by another person and/or group.

Bullying, he said, includes the target who typically doesn’t seek out counselors, the bully and the bystander who has the most power.

“If the bystander says nothing, he or she is part of the bullying,” Wiggins said.

When dealing with bullying, Wiggins said he urges students, staff and others to step in.

Role playing helpful

In resolving such conflicts, the counselors said they do a lot of role playing with students which sometimes includes student-teacher disagreements.

If it’s student-to-student conflict, they often talk to other students and staff members and bring the parties together to “respect each other enough to get down the hallway.”

Students are given warnings and if the behavior continues, discipline is handled by

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