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Board of Education to Weigh Mental Health Instruction

Tuesday, July 2, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Charlotte Starnes
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Board of Education to Weigh Mental Health Instruction

By Andrew Atterbury

06/28/2019 12:23 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE — Every student in grades six through 12 would be required to receive five hours of mental and emotional health instruction annually under a proposed rule the Florida Department of Education is scheduled to consider at its July meeting.

The rule is meant to reinforce current state standards by establishing a minimum requirement for mental health education. It carries stiff penalties for school districts that don't comply with its deadlines.

School districts would have to submit mental health implementation plans to the state every December if the rule is adopted, and file an annual report with the Commissioner of Education in June to verify that students received instruction.

The Board of Education would be granted authority to withhold funding and cut off grants from districts that don't comply.

Under the rule, districts are being asked to build youth mental and emotional health coursework that advances each year as students progress from sixth through 12th grade. The instruction would be based on the state's current health education standards.

The courses must include instruction on recognizing and preventing mental health disorders, awareness and assistance, reducing the stigma around disorders, and healthy coping techniques, among other topics.

The instruction plans must be sent to the state by Dec. 1 and posted on school district websites, according to the rule.

Both the plans and annual reports submitted to the commissioner must include specific courses delivered at each grade level, the qualifications of who is leading instruction and a description of the materials they use.

The rule is slated for Board of Education consideration on July 17.

Student mental health was thrust into the forefront of the 2019 session when two Parkland teens died by suicide as lawmakers battled over education funding. The Legislature ultimately put aside $75 million specifically for mental health in schools, an increase of about $5.8 million over 2018-19.

The omnibus school security bill passed by lawmakers, FL SB7030 (19R), included numerous mental health provisions, including opening the funding allocation to training for teachers.

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