Kentucky passed SB 1: School Safety and Resiliency Act, which sets a goals to hire more resource officers and mental health staff at schools, mandates suicide prevention training for staff, creates a new school security marshal position, and requires all districts to restrict access to each school building by July 2022. Building on this momentum, Kentucky legislators this year introduced SB 8, with the goal of increasing security presence within schools and increasing funding to hire at least one mental health professional per school.
In Michigan, Section 388.1631n of the State School Aid Act of 1979 supports the presence of licensed behavioral health providers in schools. It was amended by HB 4242 to increase aid to public school districts in the state for this purpose. In 2020, the University of Michigan will begin its partnership with the city of Detroit to implement the Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students (TRAILS) program to expand access to mental health in schools, after successful implementation in another Michigan county.
Texas passed HB 18, which requires school districts to offer mental health and suicide prevention curricula alongside physical health curricula. The legislation encourages schools to partner with local mental health authorities for content and promotes training and resources around mental health and grief counseling in schools. Texas also passed SB 11, which created a school safety allotment per student to make safety improvements within the school and established the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium. In the new year, the state is expanding this consortium by funding the West Texas regional hub of the Child Psychiatry Access Network at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
Utah passed HB 373, which approved $26 million for hiring additional school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and school nurses, and provided funds to improve partnerships with local mental health authorities. A 2019 survey requested by the Utah School Superintendents Association found that the state had also made significant progress investing in safety measures to protect students and teachers.
In New Hampshire, Executive Order 2019-03 established the Statewide Oversight Commission on Mental Health Workforce Development, a 10-year commission charged to develop a plan to address the shortage and high turnover rate of mental health professionals in the state.
The Indiana School Safety Hub is a comprehensive resource center highlighting state mental health services, equipment and technology, and policy considerations needed to keep students safe. This School Safety Hub is part of the state’s strategy to consolidate information and streamline safety-related resources to communities across Indiana.
The office of Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, along with the Vermont-National Education Association and Vermont Agency of Education, launched a “See Something, Say Something” PSA contest for videos promoting awareness and reporting of school safety threats across the state.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General developed Safe2Say Something, an online platform with resources that teach people how to recognize warning signs and signals of young people who might be in danger of harming themselves and or others.
Clearly, school safety is a complex puzzle that requires numerous solutions. These state strategies build on years of ongoing, collaborative work and continue to highlight the need for state policymakers to work to ensure students can learn in a safe school environment that supports their mental and physical well-being. As more governors share their 2020 priorities in the weeks ahead, more initiatives to bolster school safety and supports are expected to be presented.
This project was produced in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation. The authors would also like to thank Kerri Nickerson and Elly Stout at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Jill Rosenthal, Amy Clary, and Trish Riley at NASHP for their review.