Staples community rallies behind fired counselor
WESTPORT — Parents and students of Staples High School again voiced their displeasure with the firing of Ed Milton, a student outreach counselor, at a Board of Education meeting on Monday.
“Ed and I share the same degree. We’re both licensed clinical social workers,” said Amy Feder, a Westport parent. “I don’t know how many people in this room can say they have actually saved a life, but I know that Ed has.”
Milton was formerly employed by the town’s Department of Human Services for Staples in 2016 students and served an integral role in the school’s Teen Awareness Group. It’s unclear what exactly led to his recent termination.
Feder noted when Milton came to Staples, he immediately immersed himself in the school.
“Ed made himself available 24-7,” Feder said. “There was never a time when I didn’t walk by his office and noticed a group of teens anxiously waiting to talk to Ed.”
Milton once answered a late night teen crisis hotline when a teen was concerned about their friend committing suicide, Feder said. He connected with the troubled youth, performed a full assessment, secured a psychiatric evaluation and referred the youth to an outpatient facility.
“The interaction between Ed and that teen happens far more frequently than we know,” Feder said.
Several students from Staples echoed Feder’s sentiments, with many talking of the personal impact Milton had on their lives. Many expressed how his open-door policy gave students a place to go during lunch hours and helped many overcome the social challenges that comes with high school.
Josh Suggs, a junior, said he had many positive memories of Milton and looked up to the former counselor.
“I think the biggest problem was the way the town or school went about the situation,” Suggs said.
Over the past three years, Suggs would developed a close relationship with Milton and discussed with him the challenges he faced as an adolescent.
“One day I was in his office talking about my life, my struggles and basically everything I talked to Ed about. The next day he was gone,” Suggs said. “If he had done something bad, I know you can’t tell us, but we should had at least been able to say goodbye or say something to him. He was truly a role model in my life and I bet many other kids.”
Multiple students agreed with Suggs and spoke of the void Milton’s departure left. An October 2016 article in Staples High School’s newspaper Inklings labeled Milton “the Unsung Savior for Staples Students.”
Stephanie Miller, a Westport parent, said her daughter had a chromosome condition, but was able to graduate Staples thanks to Milton’s work. She added her daughter would constantly come home reflecting on the numerous things Milton taught her.
“After freshman year, she progressed and she made other friends that were more like her, and Ed helped her to do that,” Miller said. “He helped her to gain self-awareness and to succeed in what is a very difficult school.”
Her daughter has now gone to Eastern Connecticut State University.
“This is a lovely town, but with all our money and resources if we can’t have someone who helps the social needs and psychological needs of our children, then it’s a disaster,” Miller said.