The Belmond-Klemme school district is looking at hiring a social worker to help Central American students cope with the horrors they witnessed before coming to America.
Superintendent Dan Frazier prepared the following information prior to the June 11 school board meeting:
“Many of our new students are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador where violence is out of control. El Salvador became the world’s most violent country not at war in 2015, when gang-related violence brought its homicide rate to 103 per hundred thousand. Nearly one in five Hondurans, Salvadorians, and Guatemalans live on less than $1.90 (in U.S. dollars) a day. Nearly 80 per cent of the population under the age of 15 in Honduras and El Salvador live in poverty . . .
“We are shocked, utterly shocked, by the experiences some of these students are relating to us about growing up in their home countries. The emotional trauma many of these students have already experienced in their young lives is unimaginable.
“These students need more support than we have readily available in our school, and our existing staff need training in how to deal with students with these traumatic issues.”
Frazier added at the meeting, “These students have tremendous emotional baggage, tremendous trauma.” He asked the board to consider hiring a social worker to help the English Language Learners (ELL) staff and school guidance counselors. He said the ELL budget is already in a deficit, and the social worker’s salary may have to be paid through increased property taxes.
“The children need to come first,” Board President Rick McDaniel said. “We need to help them become productive citizens even with this trauma in their background.”
Boardmember Gary Berkland concurred. “We have a duty to help take care of these children. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
McDaniel pointed out that not only immigrant children and families could benefit from having access to a social worker. “I deal with families who have been in this country for five or six generations who don’t know what help is available to them,” he said.
The board directed Frazier to look at sharing a social worker with another district or through the Iowa Specialty Hospital which has social workers on staff.