A Suicide Note In Crayon


Expecting the Unexpected at PS 48

September/October 2013


To work as a school social worker in the Bronx’s high-crime, low-income Hunt’s Point neighborhood is to become an expert at expecting the unexpected.

A lot of the Bronx feels like New York City’s neglected stepchild, and Hunt’s Point—with its poverty, high crime rate, and overcrowded streets—is an especially tough place for children. In June, the last month of the school year, the heat seems to bring everyone out onto the street. Parents push baby carriages, women sit in nylon folding chairs outside their brick building, clients congregate around the local rehab clinic, and teens talk in groups outside the bodegas that seem to occupy every street corner. Along with the unmistakable vibrancy of the neighborhood, there’s a constant vigilance. Threats can erupt seemingly out of nowhere: a car running a stop sign, a loud argument suddenly flaring up. Sometimes you even hear gunshots in the distance. To survive, you learn to keep your eyes and ears open.

Public School 48, where I’m on staff as a social worker, sits on a block between a juvenile detention center and a strip club. The school serves around 900 mostly Hispanic and African American children in prekindergarten through fifth grade, with a large percentage of those kids living in shelter apartments. Of course, PS 48 has an educational mission, not a clinical one, but I’m part of a service staff that includes speech, occupational, and physical therapists. I’ve been a school social worker in New…

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1 Comment

Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:04:37 PM | posted by Joy Hailey
I want to personally thank you Howard for submitting this article. I am a MSW graduate student at Binghamton University, and a social worker at the local human service agency by day. Your article gave the needs of your students, a human face. They are more than diagnoses and statistics, something that too often we loose sight of. PS 48 is blessed to have you. Keep on doing what you do, it means more than you will ever know.

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