A former School Committee member urged district officials on Wednesday to support more mental health screening for students in the wake of the Newtown, Conn school murders.
Richard Feinberg suggested that the Swampscott district screen pre-Kindergarten students for social/emotional problems and, if possible, screen new students regardless of their grade.
Assistant Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said the district has a social/emotional screening component in place — for its pre-k students.
The district also has a state mandated program to monitor problems if emotional red flags emerge in any student. The program calls for school counselors, teachers and others to meet regularly and talk about these red flags and, if necessary, to develop strategies in response to them.
The district has been out in front of the curve looking at ways to help students in need of help, the assistant superintendent said.
Ultimately, to do more evaluation and monitoring would take more money, said School Committee member and school nurse Marianne Hartmann.
In addition, Superintendent Lynne Celli said privacy laws limit the district's ability to screen and check the background of students who transfer to Swampscott schools
Richard Feinberg told the Swampscott School Committee that he was in their position, a committee member, in 1999, at the time of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.
Twelve students and one teacher were murdered by two Columbine students.
He said there were calls for restrictions on guns after Columbine and very little came of it.
He expects very little to come of calls for gun restriction now, after 20 children and six adult staff members were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.
One action that the Swampscott district can take, as a preventative measure, is to give more attention to identifying students with mental health problems, he said.
Regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the Swampscott school officials had a moment of silence in memory of the victims and on behalf of the grieving families and friends.