KILLINGLY, Conn. (WTNH) — The Killingly school board elected a new chair Wednesday night.
The last chairwoman resigned after the board voted down a proposal in March to open a school-based health center at Killingly High School, which would have offered behavioral and mental health services at no cost to the district.
Since that vote, a group of parents filled an 11-page complaint with the state Department of Education. The state’s commissioner of education ordered an investigation after it was found to be a “substantial complaint.”
On Wednesday night, the school board was trying to come up with their own plan for addressing mental health in schools. At the meeting, some parents said the mental health clinic does not belong inside the school while other parents said it is desperately needed.
Students are caught in the middle.
An 11-year-old girl in attendance was one of the students who took a mental health survey in the Killingly school system. She was one of the 70 students who admitted they had thought of hurting themselves and she had a plan.
“I was so depressed and I didn’t really know how to like figure out what to do,” said Olivia Sylvestre.
Olivia said she followed through with a suicide attempt.
She made a full recovery and through much therapy and a year away from school, she returned to the classroom. But she was devastated when the school board voted down the mental health clinic.
“My stomach turned and I felt really, really, really sad,” Olivia said.
She spoke out Wednesday night hoping her message will change the board’s mind.
“I think it would be amazing because some kids in the school are very depressed, and they don’t really have a person to go to,” Olivia said.
“If she feels as though there’s a safe space and there’s a safe human there that can talk to her, and that can understand her and that can relate to her, it’s going to be easier for her to go to school,” said Shannon Sylvestre.
The board said there are different options on the table, from peer counseling to adding psychologists and therapists to the school system. That will all be discussed next week on the agenda put forth. They will also look again at the school-based health center.