School Climate & Safety

Florida Mandates Mental Health Training for Students in Grades 6-12

By Travis Gibson, The St. Augustine Record (Fla.) — July 18, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After of a mandate approved by the State Board of Education on Wednesday, public schools in Florida will have to provide students at least five hours of mental health instruction starting in sixth grade.

The new rule will require students to take courses aimed at helping them identify signs and symptoms of mental illness, find resources if they are battling with depression and teach them how to help peers who are struggling with a mental health disorder.

The five-hour minimum will be included in the curriculum for grades six through 12, but it remains unclear if the classes will begin in the upcoming academic year. The policy finalized Wednesday does not include an implementation date.

Despite the ambiguity, the district plans to move forward quickly, said Kyle Dresback, St. Johns County School District’s associate superintendent for student support services.

“By November we will plan to have it mapped out so we can get it out there for teachers and students,” Dresback said.

The district will submit its plan to the state for approval after that, he said.

“It’s a good thing. This needed to happen,” Dresback said. “More information on mental health is always a good thing.”

See Also: Schools Grapple With Student Depression as Data Show Problem Worsening

Under the new rule, school districts will be able to choose the types of classes children will be required to take, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. The instruction includes courses about cyberbullying, suicide prevention and the impact of substance abuse.

When asked in late June if the department had done an analysis on whether the new five-hour instruction requirement would have an impact on time management for other required instruction, Etters didn’t comment.

The question that the St. Johns County School District needs to figure out is how to fit mental health training into the current curriculum.

“We are not quite sure about that yet,” Dresback said shortly after the vote. “Where do you add that five hours on? It will probably have to be a combination of school counselors, classroom instruction and some of our informational tools. We are not quite sure how it will end up.”

First lady Casey DeSantis, who was appointed as the Chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, led the effort to implement the new rule.

“I thank the State Board of Education for their vote today to require every Florida public school to provide students in grades 6-12 with at least five hours of mental health instruction. This is an important step forward in supporting our kids and parents,” Casey DeSantis wrote on Twitter following the vote.

The St. Johns County School District already has some programs that talk about mental health and suicide prevention, Dresback said. But one of the classes, which is taught in conjunction with physical education classes and not all students attend those classes.

Dresback said that sixth-graders in traditional middle schools, which offer grades six through eight, receive some mental health training. But students attending K-8 schools don’t get as much, he said.

One focus of the mandate is addressing mental health issues early.

DeSantis wrote, “As I travel the state, I am hearing from many families and know that 50% of all mental illness cases begin by age 14, so we are being proactive in our commitment to provide our kids with the necessary tools to see them through their successes and challenges.”

Dresback said he supports the idea but said implementation of the mandate won’t be easy.

“In the next few weeks, we are going to have to sit down and map out what this looks like for every grade level,” Dresback said.

News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

Related Tags:

Copyright (c) 2019, The St. Augustine Record. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment: Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion This Is What Happens to a Student’s Brain When Exposed to Gun Violence
Traumatized and hypervigilant brains cannot learn effectively, write a behavioral neuroscientist and a school psychologist.
Amanda M. Dettmer & Tammy L. Hughes
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of a lone figure standing in a sea of bullets
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Jorm Sangsorn/iStock; Getty images
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center What Would Make Schools Safer? Here's What Educators Say
Respondents to a national survey of educators said measures like red flag laws, more school counselors are key to any school safety law.
7 min read
Photograph of crime scene tape and school.
F.Sheehan/Education Week and Getty
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center 'The World Feels Less Stable': Educators' Sense of School Safety Right Now
6 in 10 educators said a mass shooting by a student or outsider was their biggest source of fear.
7 min read
Woman standing on a paper boat with a tsunami wave approaching.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Texas Top Cop: Uvalde Police Could Have Ended Rampage Early On
The head of the Texas state police pronounced the law enforcement response an “abject failure.”
5 min read
FILE - Law enforcement, and other first responders, gather outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting, on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Law enforcement authorities had enough officers on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, the Texas public safety chief testified Tuesday, June 21 pronouncing the police response an “abject failure.”(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)