The following are excerpts from an article by the Associated Press which appeared in the Biloxi [MS] Sun Herald (10-13):
JACKSON, Miss. – "Education Secretary Margaret Spellings held the first of six roundtable discussions here Wednesday to unite mental health experts, teachers and school administrators in the ongoing task of helping children cope in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"The secretary's office took the opportunity to distribute information and resources that offered advice on helping children move beyond the traumatic events that began Aug. 29 when Katrina sent its killer winds and storm surge into the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"‘This is a situation where, the more the merrier,’ Spellings said. ‘The more we can empower parents … and not only parents, but teachers and the like, we can help fan this information out as widely as possible. So we're doing this to complement the great things that are already going on in schools.’
"Anita Craft, a school psychologist for the Jackson school district, the state's largest, said the information presented at the roundtable reaffirmed that her district was taking the right approach in making sure displaced children receive the special attention they need to adjust to new schools and new lifestyles.
"The session was also a warning that this is not a temporary struggle for Mississippi schools, she said. ‘It's something I heard for the first time,’ Craft said. ‘In the aftermath – for six months to a year after the disaster – acting out can occur … and that's not something I realized.’…
"Schools in Mississippi and elsewhere are determined to educate students, displaced and otherwise, and to meet the progress standards of the No Child Left Behind program, Spellings said….
"Preparing for the ongoing emotional struggles of displaced students is a crucial step in ensuring that Mississippi schools provide the best education possible, the education secretary said.
"‘One of the things that we knew immediately was that school had to get going,’ Spellings said. ‘But this is a marathon. Kids are going to manifest – families are going to manifest – stress and trauma over the course of this year and maybe years. So it's something we can be vigilant about. Not only for today and in the immediate aftermath, but in an ongoing way.’…
"Spellings will take the roundtable seminars to Houston; Mobile, Ala.; Atlanta; Little Rock, Ark.; and Pensacola, Fla. to address the needs of displaced students in those regions as well."
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