EDUCATION Ahead of the 2020 legislative session, the Department of Education is working on policy changes to address mental health issues for students and ensure schools are safer as part of the 2018 passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. This includes offering three options for mental health professionals to become school counselors. The State will also be surveying all 67 school districts to gauge compliance with the demands set forth by the 2018 school safety legislation. The State Board of Education approved a mandate requiring public schools teach students at least five hours of mental health instruction beginning in 6th grade. The courses will be aimed at helping students identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, find resources if they are battling depression and teach them how to help peers who are struggling with mental health issues. The change to the curriculum will begin in June 2020.
TELEHEALTH PORTALS Telehealth portals have been installed in 63 public schools throughout Northwest Florida giving about 35,000 students the ability to connect with counselors. Let’s Talk Interactive allows local providers to offer counseling services to help children deal with trauma caused by Hurricane Michael. The portals were arranged in concert with First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope for Healing initiative, the Florida Department of Children & Families, and Big Bend Community Based Care and funded through insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and grants available through BBCBC.
SCHOOL GUARDIAN TRAINING A school guardian training company did not properly train school guardians as required by law, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The company, Invictus, was reportedly paid $3,000 per student by the Palm Beach County school district for the training.