School district plans include mental health service referrals, board policies, student conduct code

Editor’s Note: On the Agenda is a summary of high interest items to be decided on or discussed at upcoming local municipal meetings in Alachua County. 

The School Board of Alachua County will hold a public hearing tonight (June 16th) to consider amendments to policies, the Student Progression Plan and Codes of Student Conduct for elementary and secondary schools.

In a June 5th memorandum to school district superintendents, Division of Public School Chancellor Jacob Oliva of the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) addressed requirements for Mental Health Assistance Allocation (MHAA) plan submissions.

“Florida Statutes, states that the mental health assistance allocation was created to provide funding to assist school districts in establishing or expanding school-based mental health care; train educators and other school staff in detecting and responding to mental health issues; and connect children, youth and families who may experience behavioral health issues with appropriate services,” the memorandum states.

According to the FDOE, each Florida school district’s MHAA plan must include:

— A focus on a multi-tiered system of supports to deliver evidence-based mental health care assessment, diagnosis, intervention, treatment and recovery services to students with one or more co-occurring substance abuse diagnoses and to students at high risk of such diagnoses.

— Direct employment of school-based mental health services providers to expand and enhance school-based student services and to reduce the ratio of students to staff in order to better align with nationally recommended ratio models.

–Strategies to increase the amount of time that school-based student services personnel spend providing direct services to students.

— Contracts or interagency agreements with one or more local community behavioral health providers or providers of Community Action Team services to provide a behavioral health staff presence and services at district schools.

— Policies and procedures, including contracts with service providers, that will ensure students who are referred to a school-based or community-based mental health service provider for mental health screening for the identification of mental health concerns and ensure that the assessment of students at risk for mental health disorders occurs within 15 days of referral.

— Strategies or programs to reduce the likelihood of at-risk students developing social, emotional or behavioral health problems, depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies or substance abuse disorders.

— Strategies to improve the early identification of social, emotional or behavioral problems or substance abuse disorders to improve the provision of early intervention to assist students in dealing with trauma and violence.

Several proposed amendments to the Alachua County Public Schools District’s Code of Student Conduct for the 2020 to 2021 address mental health referrals and services.

They include: violence against school district personnel, bringing a firearm to school, possessing or selling, distributing, displaying or transferring a weapon of any type other than a firearm or explosive and making a threat or false report of a bomb or destructive device.

The amendment language reads, “will be referred for mental health services.”

One amendment addresses any threats made by a student.  Any student who “is determined to have made a threat or false report, whether oral, written, electronic or symbolic, will be reported to law enforcement and a school-based threat assessment will be conducted.”

That student’s mental health history will be examined, according to the amendment in the process of the “creation of interventions and/or a safety plan. This plan may include a referral to mental health services,” the conduct code states.

The policy includes a new way to report threats anonymously.

“If you have received a threat or have knowledge of a threat, you must report it immediately to a teacher or school administrator,” the amendment states. 

The 2020-2021 School Conduct Codes include a link to FortifyFL at https://getfortifyfl.com/. The portal allows anonymous reporting of “suspicious activity” and encourages the reporting of threats with the phrase, “If you see something, say something.”

View the MHAA checklist here http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/18612/urlt/MHAAP-Checklist.pdf

View the memorandum here https://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-8893/DPS-2020-60.pdf

The June 16th SBAC meeting starts at 6 p.m. and will be available to watch at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCydIqRtzUHvNlsReBrAu9nw

Citizen Input may be submitted (1) via email to issues@gm.sbac.edu by noon on day of Board meeting, (2) via telephone at (352) 955-7613 (for specific agenda items), (352) 955-7544 (general comments) during the meeting, or (3) in person at the District Office Boardroom. Please call or be present prior to the item coming up for discussion.

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