After February’s tragic shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Palm Beach County families will finally be seeing improvements in school mental health services next year. The new law that has been passed includes a series of opportunities to improve school safety.
“The Department of Education must establish an evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance curriculum for students,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “By the start of the school year, students must disclose prior mental health bills.”
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Commission met to discuss events surrounding the massacre and established clear goals for adding additional mental health counselors, having mandatory “active shooter” training for staff members, security risk assessments, and more. These decided changes will be funded with $3.9 million from the state Legislature.
Already, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act has been passed by the state Legislature, which requires schools to refer any student who has made a threat against the school to mental health services.
Providing ample mental health services to students and staff has been a primary concern since the shooting. While schools continuously take steps toward bettering their services, like making their school’s identity multinational, recent events have encouraged school board staff members to take further steps when it comes to mental health.
But according to the board members, the current funding is not enough to provide the right level of mental health services at each school in the area. They say an additional $25 million is needed and would be distributed as $13 million to train a teacher to serve as a mental health coach at each school, $3.5 million to fund 50 social workers and counselors, and $6.5 million for 96 school psychologists.
While many schools invest funding in things like organized sports, which 62% of kids play to interact with friends, schools often lack the funding to provide even enough school psychologists. In fact, a 2016 report shows that for ever 1,983 students in Florida there is an average of only one school psychologist. Parents and school board members alike are fighting for more funding so they provide ample services to their students.
But providing more school psychologists isn’t the only step schools are taking. There are also other programs in the area, like the “Stop the Bleed” program to aid in the event of a shooting. This particular program trains people to perform triage while they’re waiting for first responders, which could increase the chance of survival.
All of these steps can’t be put into place overnight, and school boards are continuing to meet throughout June regarding asking voters to approve additional taxes to pay for more mental health support. But regardless of the additional funding, Florida schools are taking steps to provide more support to their school districts in hopes to prevent another tragedy in the future.