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Back-to-School: How Northeast Florida school districts are planning to address mental health

Back-to-School: How Northeast Florida school districts are planning to address mental health

Back-to-School: How Northeast Florida school districts are planning to address mental health
Photo Credit: Wokandapix / Pixabay.com
Stock photo of a classroom.

Back-to-School: How Northeast Florida school districts are planning to address mental health

With the 2019-2020 school year about to kick off across the First Coast, WOKV is taking a deep dive into some of the mental health resources that will be available to your child.

In July, the Florida's State Board of Education voted to require every Florida public school to provide students in grades 6-12 at least five hours of mental health instruction. This instruction was mandated to include the following categories: awareness of signs and symptoms, process for getting or seeking help for themselves or others, awareness of resources, and what to do or say to peers struggling with mental health disorders. 


A spokesperson for Clay County Schools tells WOKV that its staff has been meeting to develop an implementation plan for the superintendent to consider and to review potential program materials. However, exact details are not yet available, as the plan is not due until December 1st. You can read more about what’s currently being offered by the district, by clicking HERE.


In St. Johns County Schools, district spokesperson Christina Langston tells WOKV that its student services department is working to formulate a plan to meet the new requirements ahead of the December 1st deadline, but says pieces of this are in place already in the district. Langston says many of these topics are covered in middle and high school physical education courses, including the HOPE class which is taught in 9th grade. Additionally, she says all high schools are implementing the 'Sources of Strength' programming for this coming school year.


Meanwhile, Duval County Public Schools says for grades 6-8, it plans to address this new requirement through health education classes, as students are enrolled in these classes for one semester each year of middle school. As for grades 9-12, DCPS says it plans to take a collaborative approach and infuse the content into academic courses, as well as through H.O.P.E, which is the high school graduation requirement for health/physical education. 

Currently, DCPS says it already offers lessons from evidence-based programs, including Second Steph, Jason Foundation, NAMI Ending the Silence, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and More Than Sad. 

Additionally, DCPS is launching a new 'Wellness Wednesdays' initiative, which will kick off August 28th. 

"We're excited to introduce 'Wellness Wednesdays', and what that is, is every early release of our school year... we're pushing that back about 30 minutes, to receive 30 minutes of mental health instruction across the board, K-through-12, for all our students," says Heather Crowley, the Director of Health Education and Physical Education for DCPS. 

She says teams are working together to create teacher-directed lessons, with a video introduction and some age appropriate activities. 

"In these age appropriate activities, it will discuss how students can identify signs and symptoms, not only in themselves, but in their peers that are indicative of someone that may have a mental health concern. It also helps students to be able to know how to talk to their peers. Like, if you see the signs and the symptoms, how do you have that discussion with your peers, not only that, how do you, yourself, have a discussion with your parents, like something is going on," explains, Katrina Taylor, the Director of School Behavioral Health for DCPS 

Taylor says it also includes resources for anyone that is seeing a sign or symptom to get help.

Crowley says part of this initiative includes parent resources that will be distributed via social media, flyers, and other means. 

"Resources for our parents, to where if a child comes home and they're talking about this, the parent may not know that there is a school behavioral health counselor on campus and they can reach out to that person," says Crowley.

Taylor says this whole initiative is about meeting students where they are and to remove non-academic barriers to academic success. 

"Mental illness is a non-academic barrier. And it's a barrier that's caused a lot of students to not successfully complete school, if they don't have appropriate resources that they need in order to have a better outcome in life. So, the overall goal is for us as a school district to educate students, to educate teachers, to educate parents, so we can graduate students. That's the overall goal. That students are happier and healthier in every way," says Taylor.

You can read more about what the Duval school district has planned for mental health in the 2019-2020 school year, click HERE.

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