Rabun County Superintendent; ‘Mental health is the key to early intervention’

CLAYTON — At the annual State of Rabun event on Thursday, April 12th, attendees heard from Rabun County School Superintendent Melissa Williams who announced her plans for increasing school security measures by starting with what matters most on her agenda mental health.

The announcement, she said, comes after the nation was rocked by a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 lives were tragically lost. The event caused a whirlwind of emotions and struck fear in schools all across the country. Many of whom took action by protesting gun violence with a national school walkout day that occurred on March 14th, including Rabun County High School where 20 students participated in the protest.

Williams said the key to preventing any sort of misfortune from occurring starts with early intervention. She said it is crucial to pay attention to the mental health of the students.

“We believe that early intervention is the key to academic success and school security issues,” she said. “We are seeing more and more students, at very early ages, that are displaying social, emotional, behavioral and mental disorders.”

As a result, Williams said Rabun County Schools have partnered with a mental health provider and will begin implementing treatment during the school day in a specialized classroom. She said the emphasis will be focused on elementary aged children.

“As soon as next year, we’ll have a specialized classroom in our school system. It will be concentrated on our primary elementary students and will allow us to serve up to 12 students in-house with the Special Behavior Interventions Program,” Williams said.

She said, in addition, the school system recently implemented an anonymous tip line (1-800-78C-RIME) to encourage students, parents or faculty members to report anything out of the ordinary.

“It can be used to report security threats, criminal activity, vandalism or bullying,” Williams said.

As for anyone who has traveled to the school recently, they may have noticed heightened security at the gate. Williams said the armed SRO at the front entrance gate, will now be radioing to the school to confirm whoever is seeking entry. There will also be an additional two SRO’s on shift at all times.

Speed bumps, additional cameras and electronic door locks with video/audio capability are all items Williams plans to incorporate by the 2018-2019 school year.