Mental Health in the FUSD
By Katelyn Twist
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on student mental health this school year. Between distance learning, the lack of minimum days, the overwhelming workload, and the loss of work-life balance, there is almost no room for self care. However, distance learning is not the root of the FUSD’s mental health crisis. For example, the American Counselors Association advises schools to have a ratio of one counselor per 250 students; However, the FUSD has a ratio of 1 school counselor per 710 students. Additionally, the FUSD falls short in several other mental-health resource recommendations (e.g. school psychologists, nurses, and speech and language therapists). Clearly shown, the district does not meet this criteria. And now, many teachers, administrators, students, and parents are advocating for a district-wide Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). The following information is based on a presentation curated by mental health professionals, specifically for the FUSD. The presentation can be found at this link.
MTSS encompasses the needs of the “whole child” by providing academic, behavioral, and social-emotional support. It works in three simultaneous tiers—Tier 1: universal support for all students, Tier 2: targeted support for some students who are at risk, and Tier 3: individualized support for the few students with intensive and persistent challenges (not to be mistaken for Segregated Special Education). With the tier system, MTSS acts as a preventative/reparative measure, as opposed to a reactionary/disciplinary one. The general population of students receives necessary support that prevents instances of behavioral/emotional conflict. Students that are in danger of falling into damaging cycles take advantage of restorative justice practices in order to prevent any further conflict. Finally, students that experience emotional/behavioral challenges are supported and reimplemented into the school environment.
This system remains inclusive by keeping equity and cultural consideration in mind. Becoming culturally responsive is important because acknowledging and incorporating the diversity of the student population is vital when implementing an impactful, district-wide system. This way, students of all backgrounds across Fremont will have relevant assistance available to them.
While the FUSD has yet to enact a unifying system, it has begun the process of implementing additional mental health supports. Some examples (in regards to the FUSD high schools) are: Wellness centers, Peer Resource, Youth and Family Service Healthy Choice Interns, Late Start/Stress Less Days, and Restorative Practice Training for staff. Implementing these programs is up to each school, which is why many community stakeholders are advocating for a larger cultural shift within the entire district. They are also calling on the district to support administrators in implementing more supports in their schools.
Now more than ever, mental health is at the forefront of student-related crises. The district needs to take action and ensure that its dependents are given the support that they so desperately need.