Student Services Newsletters

Student Services is sending out a newsletter monthly starting in the 2021-22 school year. The newsletter covers topics around Social-Emotional Learning, mental health support, and other relevant topics and resources.

Student Services Newsletter October 2021

In October, APS staff will continue to focus on the SEL theme of Relationship Skills through activities and lessons. We also recognize October as Bullying and Substance Abuse Prevention Month. We are offering several free trainings for parents to learn more about the new marijuana laws in Virginia, how to help prevent child abuse, and how to best support the mental health of youth.

SEL Focus: Relationship Skills

Demonstrate the ability to effectively collaborate and navigate relationships while valuing different and diverse perspectives, abilities, backgrounds, and cultures. Check out this short video about how relationship skills affect learning and how important it is to foster healthy communication.

PBSLEARNING – Relationship Skills – SEL

October is Bullying Prevention Month

Post of Refuse, Recognize, Report - Click to Open PDF
Click Image to Open PDF

Recognize, Report, Refuse! October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time to focus and raise awareness on bullying. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, one-sided and happening on purpose. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.  Bullying can also take place through technology, known as cyberbullying.  Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

Childhood bullying is a significant problem nationwide. It can cause school absenteeism, mental and physical stress, poor school performance, poor self-esteem, and in some cases, school violence. Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Bullying can also happen online. Reports of cyberbullying among public school attending students are highest for middle school (33%), followed by high school (30%), combined schools (20%) and primary schools (5%). School board members, superintendents, teachers, and parents play a critical role in creating a climate where bullying is not tolerated. It has been proven when adults and children stand together, bullying ends.

APS teaches bullying prevention to educate and empower students to help create safe and supportive school communities. Throughout this month, counselors will engage in various bullying prevention efforts such as; reinforcing the three Rs of bullying prevention, Recognize, Report and Refuse, participating in Wear Orange Unity Day to show unity for kindness, support, and inclusion, and spreading the Upstander Pledge, a commitment to standing up for others. Everyone can do something to help prevent bullying; individuals, schools, and communities each have an important role. Learn what you can do.  APS provides a host of resources and helpful FAQs surrounding bullying. View this short video about our efforts.

Rules to help everyone feel safe & respected​

poster of bystander power - click to open PDF
Click image to open PDF
  • Recognizing bullying – hurtful behavior that is repetitive and one-sided​
  • Reporting bullying – identifying trusted adult you can talk to​
  • Refusing bullying – use assertiveness skills​
  • Bystander power – people who see or know about bullying happening​
  • Bystander responsibility – you can choose to help stop the bullying​
  • Bystanders to Cyberbullying – Recognize, Refuse, and Report bullying online​

UNITY DAY: Wednesday October 20, 2021 WEAR & SHARE ORANGE

Show unity for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion and to send a visible message that no child should ever experience bullying.


National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

Red Ribbon Word CloudJoin teens, parents, teachers, and other citizens across America @RedRibbonWeek (October 23-31) #RedRibbonWeek #DrugFreeLooksLikeMe

October was first declared as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in 2011. Since then, October has been a time to highlight the vital role of substance abuse prevention in both individual and community health and to acknowledge those in recovery, as well as children, parents, family, and friends supporting them. Studies show that the earlier an individual starts smoking, drinking or using other drugs, the greater the likelihood of developing addiction. 9 out of 10 people who abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances before they were 18. People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are nearly 7 times likelier to develop a substance problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older. Every year that substance use is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decrease. During this month, we take the time to recognize national and community efforts to decrease substance misuse and addiction. We also gather to remember those who have lost their lives to addiction. October is also a time to celebrate recovery and show support to children, parents, family, and friends, who are directly impacted by the disease of addiction.

Each year, the Arlington County Public Schools Substance Abuse Counseling (SAC) team commemorates National Substance Abuse Prevention Month by recognizing Red Ribbon Week, which is the Nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention campaign, which pays tribute to DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was killed in the line of duty. This prevention-based initiative is celebrated annually during the last week of October, and it reaches millions of individuals across the world. During this time, the SAC team recognizes Red Ribbon Week by engaging our students across the county and providing them with educational materials, giveaways, and interactive activities. Learn more here – APS Substance Abuse Counselors

LEARN MORE: Marijuana is Legal, So What Now?

With the recent legalization of marijuana in the State of Virginia, concerns have emerged about the overall understanding of the law and the potential long-term impact this may have on our adolescent and adult population. This presentation was created to give our audience an overall understanding of the legislation and to obtain some useful information about misconceptions about marijuana with a peer to peer perspective as well.

Presented by: Jenny Sexton MA, CSAC, FAC, QMHP, CSAM Substance Abuse Counselor from Arlington Public Schools, Niasha John, Juvenile Domestic Relations Court Services Unit, Probation and Substance Use Counselor and Teen Network Board.

Thursday, October 19th, 2021 at 12:00 pm or 6:00 pm


LEARN MORE: What can YOU do to prevent child abuse?

Arlington County, Child Advocacy Center offers Child Abuse Prevention Training. All courses are offered in English or Spanish on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Currently, all training sessions are offered virtually to ensure the health and safety in our community. For additional information about registering for one of these sessions, please visit the following link:

LEARN MORE: Youth Mental Health First Aid

Social-emotional learning is a priority for APS and this course will teach skills for self-awareness and relationship skills in the aspects of recognizing potential mental health needs, managing your own feelings, and how to have conversations with those who may need to be connected to mental health services. Through this course, participants will gain the skills to recognize and support youth experiencing a mental health or substance abuse challenge or crisis. The course covers common signs and symptoms of mental illness in youth, including: anxiety, depression, eating disorders. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); common signs and symptoms of substance use; how to interact with a child or adolescent in crisis; how to connect the person with help.   NEW: Expanded content on trauma, addiction and self-care and the impact of social media and bullying. Participants will complete a 2-hour, self-paced online class, then participate in a 4- to 5-hour Instructor-led live, in-person training.  The course is offered monthly throughout the school year and is available to staff and parents The next session will be October 28th, 2021.   Parents who wish to participate may register by calling Student Services at 703-228-6062 or emailing or

Mental Health CornerPIcture of animated brains

Screen Shot 2021-10-14 at 2.57.37 PMSources of Strength Peer Leaders at HB Woodlawn hosted a school-wide event to recognize National Suicide Prevention Month. Students worked with Siobhan Bowler, their APS Substance Abuse Counselor, to educate the community about risk and protective factors related to suicide prevention.

Screen Shot 2021-10-14 at 2.56.41 PMThe W-L School Counseling department designed a “calm room” located inside the counseling suite to help students eliminate stress during the school day. The goal is to continue to build a “positive school community” and “provide skills for resilience.”


Arlington Department of Human Services (DHS) Community Resources

APS collaborates with our agency colleagues in the Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide services and build capacity across our community.  An example of this collaboration is a newsletter, “Building Healthy Communities” where many opportunities for parents and community members are highlighted each month.

Student Services Newsletter September 2021

This year APS will have a SEL focus each month. A different SEL competency and overarching concept will be addressed in classrooms with lessons and activities, and we encourage you to work with your students at home and in the community to further develop these social and emotional skills. Suggesting questions and activities will be provided each month in this newsletter.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Image of CASEL competencies from VDOE past July, the Virginia Department of Education established a uniform definition of social emotional learning based on the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional (CASEL) definition:

“Social and emotional learning is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Virginia’s vision for SEL is intended to center equity in this work which is key to VDOE’s vision and mission, and aligns without priorities in APS as well. The Virginia definition was intentionally created to include adults as well as students. Social emotional learning is important for all of us to become better human beings. You can find more information about the VDOE SEL standards here –  VDOE Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Over the summer, a team of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists, worked on several projects to align our SEL curriculums and tiers of support with the new standards. They also created staff SEL Canvas pages to support the implementation of SEL and the development of all APS staff.

This year APS will have a SEL focus each month. A different SEL competency and overarching concept will be addressed in classrooms with lessons and activities, and we encourage you to work with your students at home and in the community to further develop these social and emotional skills. Suggesting questions and activities will be provided each month in this newsletter.

September SEL Focus: Relationship Skills

picture of Stephanie Martin
School Counselor Stephanie Martin at Long Branch Elementary School

Apply verbal and non-verbal communication and listening skills to interact with others, form and maintain positive relationships, and resolve conflict constructively.

Questions for Discussion (NOTE: Answers should be accepted with no judgement.)

  • What are some things you can do with your body when someone is talking to show you are listening?
  • What are some things you can say after someone has spoken to show that you heard them and are not judging them?
  • What can you say and do when having a disagreement with a someone to show respect for yourself and them?
  • Who would you talk to at home if…(you needed help, you made a bad choice, you have good news to share, etc.)? Who would you talk to at school…?
  • Who is someone at home (and school) you want to be closer to? What can you do to make that happen?
  • Who is an adult that you talked to at school today? Who will you talk to tomorrow?


  • Spend time together. Play games. Eat meals. Go on walks. Work on a puzzle. Read a book. Be intentional about the time you spend together, making sure that times allows for communication.
  • Have one-on-one chats to build and strengthen individual relationships.
  • Make decisions together about what to do for specials events such as birthdays and holidays.
  • One minute shares. Allow everyone a minute to share on a topic of their choice. While someone is sharing everyone else is practicing active listening. (Eyes watching speaker, ears listening, voice quiet, body calm.) When speaker is finished, the listeners and share what they heard with no judgement. Example – So you are saying that you really did not have fun when we worked on the puzzle. Is that correct?

Healthy relationship skills are the ability to get along with others and make meaningful connections. Relationships take time to build and they can be difficult to develop and maintain. Learning and practicing the skills needed to build healthy relationships are life-skills that will help now and in years to come.

First 20 days of SEL

In line with the theme of relationship skills, each day during the first month of school, all staff will be focusing on connecting with their students and helping to foster connections among peers and the school community. Student Services has provided lessons and activities to be used in class for the “First 20 Days of School.” Lessons are taught at designated times in the class environment through social-emotional learning activities that build relationship skills in the class environment and/or support students in self-reflective practices.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources in an effort to shed light on this serious and often stigmatized topic. We use this month to raise awareness and connect individuals with resources and support. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. At this time, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people age 10-24. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please get help now. Access mental health resources by clicking the “Need to Talk?” Button on the APS District Webpage. In addition, all APS schools have a comprehensive mental health team, including counselors, school psychologists and social workers to support students and families in need.

Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

The Office of Student Services continues to be committed to training all new staff  and re-certifying staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). This is a 6-hour course that teaches how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Registration for staff is through Frontline. Parents can register by calling the Office of Student Services at 703-228-6062.Training will be provided every month for the remainder of the year starting on September 23, September 30, October 14, October 28, November 16, December 1, January 13, February 8, March 10, March 31, April 27, and May 10.


Children’s Regional Crisis Response (CR2)

  • CR2 Provides 24- Hour rapid response to all youth (17 & younger) facing a mental health and/or substance use crisis. Their highly trained and compassionate counselors provide phone screening and face-to-face assessment, intervention, and support so that your child and family may continue with life as planned.
    • Call for 24-Hour Crisis Services 844-627-4747Information: 703-257-5997
    • Website:

In need of Emergency Mental Health Services? Call:

  • Arlington Behavioral Healthcare ServicesEmergency Line: 703-228-5160 General Number: 703-228-1560

Worried your child may attempt suicide/self-harm? Not sure what to do? Call:

  • Crisis Link Regional Hot Line: 703-527-4077 or Text: CONNECT to 85511
  • National Hope Line: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • LGBTQ Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357)

Local Resources:

Web Resources:

Video – Teen Suicide Prevention for Parents-Mayo Clinic