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Back-to-school event focuses gun safety, mental health

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Leaders and students from the Ferguson-Florissant School District joined the community for a march and fair on Saturday.

FERGUSON, Mo. — A North County School District held an event focused on advocating for gun safety and addressing mental health to help students feel safe and ready as they head back to the classroom.

Leaders and students from the Ferguson-Florissant School District joined the community for a march and rally on Saturday, Aug. 19. 

The district does this back-to-school festival every year, but this was the first time their focus was on gun safety and mental health. 

Superintendent Dr. Joe Davis said, organizers wanted everyone to be more aware of the issues causing major changes, not only in our area, but nationwide.

Marching down S. Florissant Road in Ferguson, Davis and other school leaders wanted to send a clear message.

“No guns in our schools. Be safe and get good support through mental health services,” he said.

Davis said, the idea behind every step actually came from the people walking alongside one another.

“Listening to the concerns of teachers and stakeholders, we want to make sure folks feel safe coming to Ferguson-Florissant, and they’re getting a great education. In that order: Safety is first and then a good, quality education,” he said.

Students held signs with pride reading ‘Embrace your mind, embrace your life.’

Davis said, community members have really been the ones pushing for more focus on mental health awareness.

“We want their voices at the table. We do things too often to them and not with them, and so they’re with us,” he said.

Student Leilani Billups was hoping to make an impact in the midst of the dancing and the dunking the back-to-school fair brings.

“I realized that not everybody had the support system that I had when I was going through it, and I wanted to be that support system for people who might not have it,” she said.

The high school junior started a nonprofit when she was in middle school, after battling with her own mental health. 

“Basically, what we just want to do is, especially with teens, make it known that it’s okay to go through mental health struggles. Here are the resources we have to help you,” Billups said. 

With every school in the district represented around the football field, just days before that first bell rings, the Ferguson-Florissant School District was focused on building a community that’s supportive of all.

“We work hard. We play hard, and I think at the end of the day, we’re one big family,” Billups said. 

The district is extremely focused on providing mental health resources for their students and staff. 

According to Davis, the district partners with ‘Hazel Health’ which offers telehealth therapy for everyone within their district. They also have therapists, social workers and counselors at their schools.

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