Educators across the nation have seen an increase in students suffering from anxiety, which has led to more truancy and youth skipping school. Lehi Junior High has created a Student Center inside the school as a space where students can take a moment to “reset” instead of going home.
“I can appreciate that it’s difficult for parents to convince their children who are experiencing anxiety to stay at school. We wanted to create a place where kids can go here at the school and then we’ll work with them to get back into the classroom,” explained Principal Kevin Thomas of Lehi Junior High.
The new Student Center, a space across from the front office formerly used as a waiting area for school suspensions, has been painted a soft gray and there are lamps instead of the overhead fluorescent lights. Lehi Junior High PTA President Stacy Bateman created a wish list on Amazon.com with rugs, weighted pillows and other soft pillows, blankets, detailed coloring books, Rubik’s cubes and handheld puzzles, stress balls, and other soothing activities. Bateman asked for help on the school’s Facebook page and the response was immediate. The Student Center has almost all of the items on the wish list, but people may still donate by going to http://foundation.alpineschools.org/donate/ and entering “Lehi Junior High – Student Center” in the purpose line.
“We’ve tried to encourage parents to have their kids stay here at the school when they’re struggling, but we would have them sit in the office or counseling center, both of which are pretty busy places. Now they can come here. They won’t be able to stay here all day, but now they have a place to go,” said Principal Thomas. “We’ll monitor the room’s use closely and evaluate each situation individually. We’re going to learn a lot this first year.”
Parents have reported to Principal Thomas that their children with severe anxiety will hold themselves together during the day at school, so they won’t be embarrassed in front of their peers or teachers. When the child gets home, however, they fall apart. The Student Center will be a place where that child can go mid-day to reset. “We know there will be kids who test boundaries and try to take advantage, but we hope this will be a help to those students who are struggling with anxiety, and their parents,” said Principal Thomas.
“We hope as the year goes on students will access this room less and less, that they’ll learn coping skills. People tend to avoid doing the thing or going to the place that gives them anxiety. If school is the thing they’re avoiding, then the anxiety is building when they’re not going to school – they’re going to think about it even more. We want to help those kids realize that the more they come, the better they will be at dealing with their anxiety,” added Principal Thomas.