This Frederick Co. student says ‘stress nowadays is more than it ever was’ and calls on the county to act

A Frederick County, Maryland, student is urging the school board to consider creating mental health safe zones on every school campus.

Brooke Lieberman, student member of the Frederick County School Board, said during a board meeting this week that the designated areas for students to unwind would prove beneficial at a time when many are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

The zones, Lieberman told WTOP, would be areas on school campuses where “students can cool down if they’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, overworked, worked up about something.”

“It’s just an area that students can use to feel themselves and to calm down, and to take a moment for themselves and to just be able to finally have a break during the day,” Lieberman said.

Ideally, Lieberman said, the areas would be in school libraries and feature a table, a few chairs and various other items available. Those things could include stuffed animals for younger students, coloring books, affirmation books, joke books, “all kinds of things that could help somebody just cool down, take a break,” she said.

There was widespread support for the concept on two social media polls Lieberman said she organized in September and November. In the September poll, 88% of respondents said it would be beneficial, as did 83% in the November poll. Those who responded and opposed the idea suspected students may not use it, or that some schools wouldn’t have the space or money.

But Lieberman said creating the safe space is essential, at a time when students are regularly worried about the future.

“Time and time again, students have talked about how stressed they are, how they feel like they have no break,” Lieberman said. “For me, it’s all about just being able to provide what’s best for our students.”

Part of that pressure comes from making plans for after graduation, Lieberman said.

“There’s just so much pressure on our shoulders,” Lieberman said. “Everybody’s telling us we’re the next generation of leaders, and we’re going to be the ones making changes.”

It would cost over $3,100 to implement the zones at 11 high schools, and about $6,800 to do so at 11 high schools and 13 middle schools, according to school board documents.

Lieberman said she’s pushing to start a pilot program but still needs to talk with administrators to find a school that’s open to setting up one of the areas. Her Board of Education colleagues understand the importance of students’ mental health, she added.

“It’s just really important that we do implement these in schools,” Lieberman said. “Because the stress nowadays is more than it ever was.”

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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