TEA News Releases Online Oct. 25, 2013
Texas Safe Schools Week: Student Mental Health
key component to positive campus environment
AUSTIN – As part of Texas Safe Schools Week (Oct. 20-26), the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) noted that strong student mental health is a key component to a positive campus environment.
“Student health and safety extends beyond emergency plans and drills. It includes mental health, which affects school climate and the learning environment,” said TxSSC Director Dr. Victoria Calder. “Caring for physical and emotional needs of students and staff is a vital part of safe and healthy schools. And, as part of preparedness, it is critical to identify school district and community resources, with disaster behavioral health experience and training, prior to an emergency.”
“As I have visited schools across the state, I have found a true sense of caring among teachers and administrators for the academic and emotional well-being of every student,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “This commitment plays a key role in creating a positive learning environment.”
According to 2010 figures from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 288,000 children live with serious mental health conditions in Texas. And those students, according to the Alliance, are more likely to drop out of school.
While emotional health should be part of school district health and discipline programs, the psychological and mental health response is also a critical component of school emergency planning. Emotional health often is influenced by emergencies or traumatic events involving the school or the community and can have lasting effects.
There are things schools can do to support the emotional needs of students, including:
- Immediately responding to imminent warning signs;
- Immediately informing parents or guardians;
- Making safety the first consideration even if that means involving administrators and law enforcement; and
- Seeking assistance from appropriate community agencies (such as child and family services and community mental health) that have trained staff and programs in place specific to the needs of children.
Senate Bill 460, passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature and signed into law, seeks to strengthen the detection and education of students with mental or emotional disorders. Under the legislation, the State Board for Educator Certification is responsible for appointing a board of experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or emotional disorders to create instruction in the detection of students with mental or emotional disorders.
Texas Safe Schools Week is held annually in conjunction with the national America’s Safe Schools Week. To read the Governor's Safe School Week proclamation, the joint Texas Education Agency-Texas School Safety Center proclamation or to learn more about Texas Safe Schools Week topics, visit the Texas Education Agency website at www.tea.state.tx.us or the Texas School Safety Center website at http://txssc.txstate.edu/.