The recent tragedy in Florida has once again brought the school safety issue back to the legislative forefront. It’s a good discussion to have.
And as we have this conversation, it’s my belief that addressing children’s mental health must also play a major role.
In Minnesota, we have approved a number of provisions that have begun to address the issues of mental health and school safety.
In both 2016 and 2017, the Legislature funded school-linked mental health to assist our school districts. The goal of this funding is to improve mental health and address mental health challenges by expanding services to schools and counties that do not have any existing grants to provide training on evidence-based practices.
We’ve also approved $2.45 million for mental health innovation grants for intermediate schools, as well as a Safe Schools Levy, which authorizes funding for school security measures, mental health professionals, and resources officers.
In addition, there’s $405,000 for the School Safety Center, which administers hundreds of training sessions across the state each year. The goal is to work with those who work with our kids by helping them learn to identify certain behaviors of a troubled student. Intruder responses and overall school security are also addressed.
So while the Legislature has begun to take steps to address school safety and mental health – and I believe more will be done in this area this session – it’s also important to remember that all of us can and must do our part to protect our children.
Often times, there are warning signs coming from a disturbed student before he or she makes an appalling action. The situation in Florida is a classic example, as a number of people spoke to school authorities, police, and even the FBI about the alleged suspect.
We should tighten security at schools, but we must also be vigilant in reporting the actions of an adolescent that is acting inappropriately. Family members, teachers, and even friends and acquaintances of a troubled youth often sense early on when someone isn’t in a good place, and their voices must be heard and taken seriously.
Moving forward, we must do a better job of protecting our kids. School security will get the most headlines, but addressing children’s’ mental health – giving them the help they need early on and not allowing them to slip through the cracks – may ultimately be more important.