For more than 30 minutes, two dozen public school educators could only listen in silence to the daunting, troubling statistics that portray the real lives of too many children.
At the annual Summer Institute on Monday, Peggy Ford, Children’s Place executive director, described those numbers to about 24 teachers and other personnel.
In a classroom of about 19 students, around half of them qualify economically for free lunch. Two more are likely to receive reduced lunch fees based on poverty levels, said Ford.
“Five of them are ‘food insecure, going to bed hungry,’” she said. “Twelve percent have no health insurance.”
For more than 12 years, the education advocacy organization Public Education Partners, also known as PEP, has administered the program – helping teachers learn more about how they can recognize the serious issues a child may bring from home. Throughout the rest of the week, a wide range of social service agency representatives will talk to the educators about their programs and how they can assist the educators with those services.
Although the statistics have improved recently, the number of children at risk remains high. In that “average” class of 19, nine are born to single parents. Seven are born to teenage mothers. One girl will have been sexually abused by a family member in the home or by another relative or neighbor. Others have been sexually victimized, and this kind of crisis is not limited to girls.
“This program goes hand in hand with what the School District is trying to do,” said Cheryl Fischer, the District’s therapeutic counseling coordinator. “We’re trying to intervene early with children so they can be successful. We have a great community willing to support us. A lot of agencies are willing to do whatever it takes.”
Since the program began, hundreds of teachers have completed it. During the next four days, agency personnel will provide information about specific issues. Teachers also will learn how to make a report to the Department of Social Services.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.