So how does an educator even begin to cope when a desk that was once filled by a student who they knew and built a relationship with goes empty because that young person is no longer alive? How do we cope when we taught and mentored a student and saw them graduate — only to see on social media that their life is over?

These aren’t things we are taught — and school systems across the country lack adequate support. In Chicago, our schools are already criminally short on social workers and counselors. We went on strike in 2019 for 11 days, in part so we could make sure every Chicago Public School had a social worker by 2024. As of 2022, Chicago had one social worker for roughly every 520 students. The National Association of Social Workers says schools that are experiencing high levels of trauma should have one social worker for every 50 students.

That’s not the only problematic ratio. Chicago Public Schools has four crisis counselors for over 340,000 students. As I have learned through the deaths of my own students, these four crisis counselors go to a school to help the students dealing with the loss of a classmate and friend. These crisis counselors come for a day and then leave, but the school’s staff is supposed to pick up the pieces after that, with no additional sustained support.

The cycle of violence and trauma continues, prayers are given and children are blamed for being with the wrong people or making the wrong choices. There are no “good” or “bad” kids. There are just kids. We must break the habit of trying to justify how sad we should feel when a student dies, depending on their level of “goodness.” It is as if when a kid who has all the support that they need dies, then we should feel deeper sadness than when a kid who should be getting more support dies. It is as if a child’s struggle absolves us of the same level of sadness.

Violence and tragedy have become so normalized in our city and society. Every time a student has died in this city, the mayor — whether it be Daley, Emanuel or Lightfoot — has said how sad they are and sent their prayers, but we need more counselors, social workers and mental health providers for the students in our schools. Educators have been demanding an increase in those supports since I started teaching in 2007. Officials are not developing policies to help create safer communities for our kids to live and thrive in.

Read the full article about student trauma by Dave Stieber at EdSurge.