Training for School Cops

    Many Philadelphia schools struggle with their students’ behavioral problems, such as violent outbursts or depression. School Police Officers are often the ones to intervene when problems arise – and a new training program aims to give them tools to better handle tough situations.

    Many Philadelphia schools struggle with their students’ behavioral problems, such as violent outbursts or depression. School Police Officers are often the ones to intervene when problems arise – and a new training program aims to give them tools to better handle tough situations.

    Many Philadelphia students face challenges affecting their mental health, including neighborhood violence and drug addiction. So a student acting out might need help and treatment, rather than detention or a dose of tough love. During the five-day training, school police officers learned about child development, mental illness, intervention, and services. The training was put together by the Mental health Association of South Eastern Pennsylvania.

    Debbie Plotnick of the Association says officers now know how to recognize signs and symptoms of a student in crisis:

    Plotnick: So rather than reacting in a way that might further frighten, or threaten or escalate the situation, they have learned how to recognize different situations and how to engage with young people on an ongoing basis that encourages trust and communication.

    Plotnick says for example, a withdrawn and sad student could have deeper issues:

    Plotnick: Perhaps that youth is suicidal so it would be how to recognize that and how to interact with the youth in a way that they feel safe and to help them connect to services or help they might need.

    Plotnick says her agency and researchers at Temple University will follow the newly trained officers throughout the school year to see if the training helps.
    Officers who completed the training program say they got a new perspective on the students they work with, and the daily challenges they face.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.