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Legislative Breakfast Highlights Need for Added Student Support

The Loudoun County School Board held its annual Legislative Breakfast on Thursday, November 9, at the Academies of Loudoun.

This event gives the School Board a chance to present its 2024 Legislative Program to Loudoun’s General Assembly delegation.

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence used the event to highlight school needs in relation to incidents involving students and Fentanyl.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about substance abuse recently. Schools were not built and equipped to deal with substance abuse. We’re not built to deal with students struggling with addiction.”

Spence said that LCPS has supports, such as student assistance specialists, in place. These professionals have significant experience with substance-abuse prevention. He added that the safety net dealing with students has recently expanded. “Sadly, most of our staff is now trained in the administration of Narcan. We have emergency response teams in every one of our buildings, trained to deal with students who are not responsive. We have enacted life-saving measures in our buildings as recently as last month. We shouldn’t have to do that. We have to solve this problem together. This is a real issue in our community.

“Schools want to be a part of the solution, but we can’t do it alone. We need help.”

Spence said there are several things needed to deal with the community’s Fentanyl crisis. “There are no inpatient facilities in Northern Virginia that will work with students struggling with fentanyl addiction,” he said, noting such facilities are a critical need. “The wait list is too long for young people who need help. There are not enough providers. There are not enough options. We, as a school division, need to work with our legislators and make sure more options exist for our students.”

There also are problems getting Food and Drug Administration approval for treatment for students under the age of 18. “We know a lot of students are under the age of 18 who are dealing with this. We need policy help. We need funding support for inpatient treatment and we need options for students who are in recovery.  Imagine being in recovery and going to a school with 2,000 students who don’t know what you’re going through. Imagine being that student.”

Spence told the legislators that there is a need for a recovery program and mental-health services in every part of the state.

Algonkian District School Board member Atoosa Reaser, the chair of the Legislative and Policy Committee, thanked the legislators for their support during the current board’s term. “We know it has not been an easy four years for anyone in education, including school boards and, specifically, the Loudoun County School Board. The delegates and senators have been there for all of us and it has meant the world to us that they gave us the opportunity to do our best work and give us the benefit of the doubt for the last four years.”

Reaser was elected as the 29th District’s representative in the House of Delegates on November 7.

School Board Chair Ian Serotkin echoed Reaser’s praise of the state legislators. “I want to thank our entire Loudoun, state and federal delegation for being such excellent partners with us over the last four years. We’ve talked with some of our colleagues on other school boards and know that’s not always the case. We’ve really had an excellent partnership in jointly advocating for our students, our teachers and our parents.” (Serotkin also noted that he is the last representative from the Blue Ridge District, which was eliminated when voting districts were redrawn.)

The School Board was represented by Serotkin, Vice Chair Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District); Reaser; and Jeff Morse (Dulles District).

School Board members-elect attending the breakfast included Anne Donohue (At-Large); April Chandler (Algonkian District); Linda Deans (Broad Run District); Kari LaBell (Catoctin District); Melinda Mansfield (Dulles District); and Lauren Shernoff (Leesburg District).

Published November 15, 2023