HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Parents from Killingly are fighting for mental health services in schools by rallying at the State Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday.
The rally follows the Republican-led Killingly Board of Education’s refusal to expand student mental health services in the town’s public schools. On March 16, the BOE rejected a grant-funded, school-based mental health center, which led concerned parents and residents to file a complaint against the board on April 5.
About two dozen people from Killingly rallied on the statehouse steps today to try to bring attention to what they say is a mental health crisis in their town.
“Imagine telling teenagers in a meeting about their school that they’re out of line and they need to essentially shut up and sit down,” said State Senator Mae Flexor, (D) Killingly.
Senator Flexor joined parents, students, and teachers rallying in support of having the school-based health center which would provide mental and behavioral health services.
“We see students who are crying or shaking from panic attacks,” said Killingly High School teacher Lisa Higgins.
The proposed center which would have been at no cost to the school system was voted down by all but two of the board of education members.
“They even went so far as to accuse our children of lying on a mental health survey which indicated that 14.7 percent of our kids had a suicide plan. That is 77 students in our school,” said Killingly parent Kristine Cicchetti.
Cicchetti is among a group of parents who filed a complaint with the state board of education.
News8 tried to contact the Chairman of Killingly’s board of education but has not heard back. The board has said in the past there are alternative mental health services available to students.
Julia Revellese says she left Killingly High School because she wasn’t getting the help she needed.
“I don’t know if I would be here so getting the help that I needed, getting help for my anxiety, everything like that really helped me a ton,” said Revellese.
Many of the people at the capitol have been in Hartford before testifying in front of the state board of education.
The state BOE is investigating their complaint and has requested a meeting with the superintendent of schools in Killingly as well as two members of the Killingly Board of Education. Those members have asked to have any meeting postponed.
The state sent the Killingly board’s attorney a letter denying that request.
Parents say they are continually silenced by their BOE and that’s why they brought their concerns to the statehouse steps.
“This is now an attack on our first amendment rights,” said Killingly parent Christine Rosati Randall.
Now, the State Department of Education (SDE) is investigating whether voting down the proposal violated the “educational interest of the state.”
Parents are set to come together under the name “Save Our Students,” joined by state Senator Mae Flexer, on the steps of the State Capitol at 2 p.m.
SOS is asking parents, school staff, and concerned citizens to join them along with their state and local leaders to show support for school-based health centers. Additionally, SOS said the rally will show support for the SDE in advocating for mental health resources, noting that “the SDE’s decision for Killingly will set precedence for every local Board of Education across the state.”