For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark, 512-473-2274
Austin - Following Governor Greg Abbott’s release of his plan to address school safety, Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, released the following statement:
"We're glad to see that Governor Abbott is calling for a greater effort to address student mental health. Texas leaders absolutely need to provide funding and support to increase the number of school counselors and expand mental health services for students.
“As he noted, these student mental health efforts aren’t just about making students safer. In fact, people with mental health challenges are much more likely to be a victim of violence than they are to engage in violence.
"As the Governor explained, addressing student mental health is also about making sure more students are successful in our schools and communities. There are many benefits to providing mental health services to students in need, training school personnel to understand and respond appropriately to student trauma, and implementing campus-wide programs that help students resolve conflicts, manage anger and stress, and feel safe and supported at school. These efforts not only reduce bullying and other violence, but also improve behavior, learning, and student health.
“We are particularly pleased to see the Governor’s recommendation to ‘Prioritize the importance of the mental and behavioral health needs of students by freeing up counselors to focus on those needs, encourage school district’s to add more counselors at the campus level, and appropriate funds to fill in gaps’ as well as the Governor's recommendation to ‘Increase Mental Health First Aid training during summer 2018.’
"We believe the Legislature, TEA, HHSC, and school districts should build on those recommendations, the work of the Hurricane Harvey Task Force on School Mental Health Supports, recent legislative discussions on student mental health, and efforts by individual school districts to address mental health.
"We also need to express our concern about certain student discipline proposals. Along with implementing evidence-based programs to prevent student misbehavior, we believe a formal, evidence-based assessment should be conducted before a student is removed from school or law enforcement is called to address student behavior. In many cases, removing students from school can marginalize and socially isolate them in a way that worsens mental health challenges and makes it more difficult to connect them with services and supports they need to be healthy and well. Removing a student from school can also place him or her in the school-to-prison pipeline. Finally, we are concerned that adding additional law enforcement officers on school campuses will result in more arrests of students for minor misbehavior that was traditionally handled in the classroom.
"We'll be working hard in the coming weeks and months to help shape these policy discussions and proposals in a way that reflects the evidence about what works best to support and protect kids."