In our previous post we explored aspects of changes from the 86th Texas Legislative session related to emergency preparedness. Now let’s look at changes related to socio-emotional health.
Let’s explore changes to the Texas Education Code (TEC) from the 86th Texas Legislative session that relate to mental health and socio-emotional wellness. The primary bill is Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), formally titled:
AN ACT relating to policies, procedures, and measures for school safety and mental health promotion in public schools and the creation of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium.
There are, as the title suggests, many changes to TEC Chapter 38 (Health and Safety) and the Texas Health and Safety Code. School staff should read through these parts of SB 11 carefully. There is a lot to it. One way of getting a handle on it is to group the changes thematically –
- Increased awareness and education for parents, teachers, and students
- How we teach students
- Mental health resources and support for school districts
- Threat assessment teams, and safe and secure schools program
The new laws attempt to raise awareness of mental health issues in several ways. For parents and families, the local school health advisory council is charged with recommending strategies for parental awareness. School districts are encouraged to create educational materials for parents that discuss risk factors, treatment options, and resources related to mental health, substance abuse, and suicide.
For teachers, recurring training about how grief and trauma impact learning is now required, where it previously was optional. For students, there are new curriculum requirements in SB 11. The enrichment curriculum expands the definition of health into the now separate components of physical health, mental health, and suicide prevention, and provides guidance for the latter two. The State Board of Education is charged with adding digital citizenship to State curriculum, covering both cyberbullying and healthy online behaviors.
In terms of how we teach, the new laws emphasize trauma-informed care. Provisions for it must now be included in the district improvement plan. As mentioned previously, training for teachers on the effect of trauma on learning and in the use of trauma-informed strategies in teaching is now required. The biggest change from SB 11 is the creation of an entirely new Education Code Section 38.036, titled Trauma-Informed Care Policy. The intention is to integrate trauma-informed practices throughout a school district. It addresses policy, methods, training, and accountability. Interestingly, it specifically allows a school district to partner with community mental health organizations when it lacks resources of its own.
To support districts with improving mental health outcomes, SB 11 adds a new sub-chapter F, Mental Health Resources, to Chapter 38. It directs the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the regional service centers, in conjunction with several other State agencies, to identify mental health resources and community-based programs available to school districts. The Communities in Schools programs are specifically named as part of this. The initial rubric called for in sub-chapter F is to be issued by the TEA to the service centers by December 1, 2019. The Legislature seems to want a sense of urgency around this. On a more strategic level, the new law calls for the creation of a Texas Child Mental Health Consortium. Its purpose is stated as: “leverage the expertise and capacity of the health-related institutions of higher education… to address urgent mental health challenges and improve the mental health care system in this state in relation to children and adolescents.”
The final major theme addressed by the new legislation is the use of threat assessment teams and safe and secure schools programs. We will cover those changes in our next post.
The Legislature passed several new laws that impact school safety and impose new responsibilities upon public school districts, charter schools, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas School Safety Center. We have created a free guide that summarizes the bills and how they may impact you. Click here for a free download.