Academic journal article School Social Work Journal

An Investigation of School Social Worker Perceptions toward School Security Personnel

Academic journal article School Social Work Journal

An Investigation of School Social Worker Perceptions toward School Security Personnel

Article excerpt

School social workers provide a number of student- and systemfocused interventions designed to address the needs of students using a person-in-environment perspective. They are a critical component of the school-home-community relationship, facilitating student success through resourcefulness (Allen-Meares, 2015; Dupper, 2003; Frey et al., 2013; Kelly, Berzin et al., 2010a). In response to recent federal legislation and a push to implement evidence-based mental health services in U.S. schools, school social work has seen tremendous growth over the past two decades (Franklin, Kim, & Tripodi, 2009). This subspecialty of social work is expected to see continued growth in the coming years (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015).

Another growing trend in U.S. schools is the deployment of school police or other security personnel to patrol schools. Although such programs have existed for more than fifty years, federal incentives offered in the aftermath of several high-profile incidences of lethal school violence during the past twenty years have led to unprecedented growth in the number of school police officers (Addington, 2009; Now Is the Time, 2013; Weiler & Cray, 2011). These investments have led to approximately twenty thousand school police officers being deployed in American schools now compared to about thirteen thousand officers in 1997 (Childress, 2016).

Despite an increase in the use of school social workers and school security personnel in U.S. schools, current research on school social work fails to paint a picture of how school social workers interact with and perceive school security personnel within their schools. This study aims to contribute to filling this gap in the literature by exploring survey responses from a statewide sample of school social workers. The purpose of this article is to provide timely implications and recommendations for school social work as the practice of school policing becomes more prevalent in today's schools.

Literature Review: School Social Work Today

Traditionally, school social workers have been utilized in the educational setting to perform a number of functions that aim at positively affecting student academic and behavioral outcomes. Trained with an ecological framework as a diagnostician, assessor, and group facilitator, as well as performing as a systems change agent, an agent for bridging home and school environments, and an individual and family counselor, a school social worker is equipped to fulfill these roles (Blitz, 2013; Joseph-Goldfarb, 2014; Kelly, Frey, et al., 2016; Lee, 2007; Pardeck, 2015). Based on research by Usaj, Shine, & Mandlawitz (2012), many social workers assist with the following activities, depending on school district expectations and funding sources:

♦ Early intervention programming

♦ Ongoing progress monitoring

♦ Comprehensive formal and informal ecological assessments including academic, social-emotional and mental health, and adaptive functioning and family and community interactions

♦ Development of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

♦ Development and monitoring of behavioral intervention plans (BIPs)

♦ Comprehensive family services

♦ Individual and small group counseling

♦ Community liaison work

♦ Development and maintenance of students' personal, social, and academic competencies

♦ Consultation for and with educators to ensure understanding and support of struggling learners

♦ Crisis response for students in critical need

Based on the NASW Standards for School Social Work Services (National Association of Social Workers, 2012), school social workers also have a responsibility to participate in promoting and improving positive school climate. School social workers are trained to work with the entire educational constellation of teachers, students, parents, and related others. The concept of interdisciplinary collaboration is at the heart of effective school social work practice, but one such collaboration that is often lacking is collaborations with school-based safety personnel. …

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