KDE school counseling coordinator to host national webinar addressing race-based stress and trauma

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Damien Sweeney, center, the Kentucky Department of Education’s coordinator for comprehensive school counseling, poses with counselors from Fayette County Public Schools.
Damien Sweeney, center, the Kentucky Department of Education’s coordinator for comprehensive school counseling, poses with counselors from Fayette County Public Schools. In an effort to help schools address race-based stress and trauma, Sweeney will present a national webinar for other school counselors across the country.
Submitted photo, September 2018

By Sky Carroll
sky.carroll@education.ky.gov

In an effort to help schools address race-based stress and trauma, the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) coordinator for comprehensive school counseling will present a national webinar for other school counselors across the country.

The webinar, hosted by Damien Sweeney of the Office of Teaching and Learning at KDE, comes amid national protests over the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

“It really is a huge honor to be able to provide support for counselors all over the country,” said Sweeney. “I’m used to doing it for the state, but I’ve never had such a broad audience.”

The webinar is hosted by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and will take place noon-1 p.m. ET. June 9. The webinar is free and open to everyone. Sweeney will give a presentation and the remaining time will be devoted to questions and conversation.

After the webinar, he said attendees should be able to acknowledge and address current events that cause race-based stress and trauma, discuss the realities of race-based stress and trauma and understand how it plays out in students’ lives. They will also be able to identify next steps in becoming culturally sensitive and competent.

“I am really hoping that more courageous conversations happen and that we don’t ignore the events, we don’t act like that’s not our job to talk about them,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney said he believes that this year more than ever, counselors must be prepared to support students when they return to in-person instruction this fall, whether it’s in coping with race-based trauma related to current events or the challenges that have come with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He hopes the webinar will create a space where counselors can “ask questions and communicate their discomfort so we can walk through how to overcome those things.”

On June 3, KDE released guidance on how districts can facilitate conversations about race-based stress and trauma. Sweeney suggested that counselors and educators look to the document to learn how to facilitate meaningful conversations within their school community.

“I think we should facilitate these courageous conversations,” said Sweeney. “I think we should get comfortable knowing that they will be uncomfortable, but that they are important nonetheless and must be had, regardless of our discomfort.”

Register for the webinar on the ASCA website.

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