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Article posted: 5/8/2013 12:03 AM

Dist. 220 board updated on social-emotional learning

By Eric Peterson

In the wake of a high school student's suicide last month, Barrington Unit District 220 board members Tuesday heard a progress report on the district's social-emotional learning curriculum aimed in part at anticipating and avoiding such tragedies.

The report was made at the request of board member Cara Richardson at her last meeting before two newly elected members were sworn in.

Strong focus was put on students' social-emotional well-being in District 220 -- both during and outside the school day -- after five students' suicides from the fall of 2007 through August 2010.

Last month's student death broke a subsequent stretch of successful prevention.

Several staff members Tuesday reported on measures taken to address everything from bullying to depression to coping with stress in all grades.

One of the curriculum's goals was to define its own success in this area, which became, "a successful Barrington 220 student demonstrates strong character, independence and resiliency, thinks critically and creatively, solves problems and collaborates effectively throughout society."

"We want (students) to be resilient when facing challenges, as they will be," Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Connie Simon said.

Richardson asked whether the increase of technology in the classroom raised the likelihood of cyberbullying. But staff members told her students are trained in the appropriate uses of technology from the earliest grade levels.

Board President Brian Battle said that while students face stress in exam situations, he wondered how many students also feel stress from parents.

Rose Elementary School Principal Scott Carlson said parents face their own stress from their own difficult mentoring role, but that all parties should be part of the conversation on students' well-being.

Superintendent Tom Leonard said that with efforts to make the standard curriculum more rigorous, it may become more stressful to some.

"You can't eliminate stress from life, it's a matter of how you deal with it," Battle said.

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