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Kilgore Middle School is implementing a new on-campus program designed to meet the emotional and social needs of students as they attend classes and school events.

KILGORE — Kilgore Middle School is implementing a new on-campus program designed to meet the emotional and social needs of students as they attend classes and school events.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts is a program founded in the 1990s by Texas psychotherapist Flip Flippen. It focuses on strategies that educators and school faculty can use to increase trust between educators and students, improve school culture and improve academic performance.

“This is something that we’ve been talking about as a program for the last couple of years,” Superintendent Andy Baker said at a recent school board meeting. “One of the big things that we’re doing with the federal stimulus money that we’re getting for next year to help close the academic gaps and continue focusing on some of the social and emotional needs of our students. This (program) fits perfectly.”

Kilgore Middle School Principal Jennifer Gholson said she was excited about the new program and feels it is the right time to begin using it at her school.

“We’re really excited about starting this on the KMS campus,” she said. “Social and emotional health and learning are big topics in education right now, and for a good reason. Our students have had a difficult year, and we’re seeing the effects of that on our campus. Talking to other principals, they see it as well.”

Gholson said, during the last school year, the middle school had 342 referrals to the counseling office, and counselors regularly met with 41 students per week.

“That’s a lot of students that we’re seeing for emotional needs,” she said. “It can be things like self-harm, suicidal thoughts or actions, not being able to deal with their own emotions or other people. We’d like to use this program as a tool for teachers so that they can help students before they get to the point where they have to go the counselor’s office or get a disciplinary referral.”

The program uses questions directed at students to help build a “social contract” for the classroom. Students are asked how they want to be treated by their teachers and peers but are also asked how they think their peers and teachers want to be treated by them when a conflict may arise. The social contract is an “agreement of behavior” that holds students accountable for treating their fellow students and middle school staff with courtesy and respect.

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