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Missouri promises trauma counseling help, but St. Louis school district has 'no information at all'

Shelia Price marches against violence with her grandchildren Saturday, March 19, 2016 in north St. Louis. Her son died from a gun shot 20 years ago.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Shelia Price marches against violence with her grandchildren on March 19, 2016, in north St. Louis. Her son was killed by a gunshot 20 years ago.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said earlier this week that he’ll provide more trauma counseling services to St. Louis’ public schools as part of a broader plan to reduce violent crime in the city.

It’s a strategy the school district says it had no part in crafting.

Patrick Wallace, St. Louis Public Schools spokesman, told St. Louis Public Radio that the district didn’t know about the commitmentfrom the Republican governor before he announced it on Monday. And as of Wednesday, the district still has “no information at all,” Patrick said.

The Missouri Department of Social Services said that it will “be available to train and counsel school professionals on how to be trauma-informed in their work with students.” Agency spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel also said in the emailed statement that DSS will “offer ongoing support as needed.”

SLPS social workers received trauma training last school year, Wallace said, and teachers will go through the training in August.

Most SLPS schools have three-person social work teams in schools, and the district has a crisis team to go into a school when it’s impacted by violence, Wallace said, adding it’s a “very stressful job.”

Woelfel did not respond to an email requesting details on the plan, including whether the state will give the school district additional counselors.

Greitens said during Monday’s news conference in the Baden neighborhood that a teacher is affected by the city’s violence when she “has to explain to her class why there's another empty seat in the classroom,” according to prepared remarks.

But more training alone won’t help children who have experienced violence, according to psychologist Dr. Marva Robinson, who volunteers with crime prevention and counseling agencies for St. Louis youth.

“It’s about having actual physical individuals that are trained to help to do the work versus training teachers who have the job of teaching to also now become part counselor,” she said.

Robinson said there aren’t enough trauma-trained adults in schools that children can trust.

“Resources are stretched extremely thin,” she said.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated Marva Robinson's profession. She is a clinical psychologist, not a psychiatrist.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.