Our community is in the middle of a debate over the future of self-contained gifted and talented education. As a Davis parent with a master’s degree in marriage, family, child and school counseling, I am concerned about the emotional needs of the children and families in Davis, especially the high levels of anxiety and stress that our children are experiencing.
I recently attended a school board meeting where the district’s crisis manager gave a report on student health and well-being. It was distressing to learn that there has been an 81 percent increase (94 incidents) in suicide risk interviews with students this year over last year. There were 52 interviews in 2011.
Additionally, the district counseling staff is seeing higher incidents of risk-taking and self-harming behavior among youth, and I believe much of it is related to the levels of stress and anxiety that they feel due to the push for high academic performance.
The school board, district staff, parents and community must ask ourselves what are we doing to set our children up for this reaction to their environment. Could it be that expecting all third-graders to take a test that will determine whether they are placed into the “gifted” track from third through ninth grade increases their level of anxiety at such a young age?
Did you know that when you Google “Olsat 8,” test preps for the GATE entry test come up first and that the district GATE web page gives suggestions on how to prep children for the test? Could this be the beginning of the anxiety that we are seeing more and more in our elementary-age children? Or is it being forced to make the decision to choose GATE over staying at their neighborhood school or with their closest friends? Yes, the district’s crisis manager reported that she is seeing suicidal thoughts in our elementary students as well.
Please support the school board and district staff as they explore alternative models for serving all our children in ways that provide quality education and an environment that is protective against unhealthy anxiety.