Teachers facing new challenges

Public school teachers are educators, not professional psychologists or sociologists. They have their hands full dealing with children’s intellectual needs, without having to worry about other roles involving students’ well-being.

Increasingly, educators are finding themselves the first line of defense for children who are troubled, abused, even hungry or cold. Giving teachers more resources to help the youngsters is imperative.

Most veteran educators can relate stories of having to step out of the jobs for which they are paid and into that of social worker. More than a few have dug into their own pockets to buy clothes or food for students. Some can relate horror stories of abused children. Often, police arrest the perpetrators of such crimes only because teachers tipped them off.

It has gotten worse during the past several years, however. We all know the primary culprit: drug abuse. It has made some families that in name only.

“In some cases, we aren’t just educating the kids, but we also help in raising them,” commented Brooke County interim school Superintendent Jeffrey Crook last week.

As state legislators prepare for a special session on public schools, the state Department of Education is holding public meetings throughout the state to discuss various issues (one is set for 6-8 p.m., April 2, at Wheeling Park High School). Reportedly, one concern brought up at gatherings already held has been mental health services for students.

That very issue was among those addressed this year in the ill-fated state Senate Bill 451. Following up on its failure is the reason why lawmakers will convene for a special session sometime during the next few months.

Should this be something public school teachers and administrators have to make a priority? No. Again, their jobs are to educate.

But is it something legislators need to address — hopefully not permanently — during their special session? Absolutely.

When they are in trouble, the first person to whom many children turn is a trusted teacher. At least while the drug abuse epidemic rages, educators need more resource to help those students — and there are a lot of them.