Dallas ISD mental health professionals allayed fears, provided support

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VIDEO: Dr. Angela Moemeka from Children’s Health sheds light on the facts and myths surrounding the Ebola virus in a video posted Oct. 16.

In the days after the diagnosis of the Ebola case in Dallas, school officials quickly took action to address the fears of school staff, parents and students.

The news that five Dallas ISD students had come into contact with Ebola patient Michael Eric Duncan raised concerns that other children might be impacted. To ensure that any danger of the disease spreading would be contained, officials of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control placed the five children and their family members in quarantine where they were observed for symptoms for 21 days. The staff of Dallas ISD’s Student Services Division, which includes Psychological and Social Services, Counseling Services, and Health Services coordinated efforts to help allay fears in the community, talking with students and meeting with concerned parents to assure them that their children were not at risk.

Director of Psychological and Social Services Connie Rodriguez said all of the district’s health professionals communicated the same message. “If you have not been near someone who is contagious and is showing symptoms, you have nothing to worry about.” She said they stressed the importance of practicing good health hygiene such as hand-washing, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and staying home if you feel sick. “We pointed people to the many messages on television and websites about how the disease was spread.”

Once medical officials pronounced the quarantined students clear of the disease, permitting them to return to school, efforts turned to ensuring that their peers would welcome them back to school without fear or bullying. Counselors encouraged adults to model compassionate behavior showing children how they should welcome someone who has had a difficult time. They also conducted guidance lessons reminding students that bullying is not acceptable and would not be tolerated. Counselors also reached out to the families of the impacted students, offering counseling or other support services to ease their transition back to school.

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