Moderator Pick
June 1st, 2020

School-Based Mental Health Service Prevent Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

School-based mental health services are a barrier to establishing a Continuum of Social and Emotional Learning Supports for students in K-12 and Charter Schools. During the emergence of evidence-based practices, County Departments of Mental Health invested heavily in training their staff and community-based providers in a wide-rage of behavior and cognitive-behavioral therapy curriculums. Adapted as prevention and early intervention, traditional mental health providers offered the latter as school-based mental health services under the conventional diagnosis and treatment medical model.

So first, there are misaligned communications as schools promote "Social and Emotional Learning," the mental health system delivers albeit fragmented, Prevention and Early Intervention services, essentially one-in-the-same. LEAs that offer SEL focus on faculty and staff professional development as oppose to amongst students to strengthen their emotional intelligence. Then there is the inappropriate diagnosis of students with behavioral issues with mental disorders. LEA Department of Student-Supports relying on school-based mental health services as a Tier III MTSS intervention inadvertently refer students for mental health services who otherwise have behavioral issues, thus perpetuating stigma and distrust. This approach deters schools from offering a continuum of learning supports that prevent problem behaviors and intervene early among students within trauma-exposed communities.

In November of 2019, Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke, acknowledge toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences as a public health crisis. Dr. Burke's recommendation to investigate the intersection of health and education system is timely as COVID19 exacerbates the behavior and academic challenges of our future youth leaders. To rectify these different systems and community dynamics and meet the objectives of improving the behavior and the academic performance of students, the seamless integration of school and mental health system need occur. Therefore, a non-threatening approach to building a continuum of social and emotional learning supports rest is developing trauma-informed paraprofessionals. Trauma-Informed Paraprofessionals are supervised and coordinated in pairs to offer a small-group behavioral modification to primary school students as universal primary prevention and cognitive-behavioral therapeutic learning to intermediate school-age youth as early intervention. The multi-program approach will effectively identify students experiencing undiagnosed depression while strengthening intergenerational peer social and emotional interaction as students transition through post-secondary education.

Tags: Climate and culture, community building, equity, Integrating SEL into academics, Mental health, relationships, SEL Research, student-centered, Trauma-informed practices

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Comments (3)

Comments (3)

Bruce, I am trying to hone in on the implications of your post. Susan seemed to suggest that the PBIS program will help to teach SEL. Your response seemed to indicate that PBIS is behavioral control and is not SEL. Although I have used the PBIS program and found it helpful, I am not in full aggreance that it is SEL. Is SEL to you then the adherence to training paraprofessional to help with inclass instruction? or is it meant to be used more as a means of diagnosing student that need more emotional education? In either case, what is a typical teacher actions that would be classified or described as promoting SEL? Thanks for posting.

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Thank you! This is a critical point! In our district the SEL team is part of our Division of Instruction. We have been able to build a successful collaborative model that recognizes that SEL needs to be integrated into instructional practice. We develop the content of our professional development with the support of our social workers and other school mental health practitioners, and they co-facilitate our sessions. We provide professional development that helps our teachers and administrators to understand the reality of toxic stress and the impact of ACES. We frame this, and adverse community experiences as the 'why'- and full integration of SEL into classrooms as the 'how'. We are working to ensure that we frame SEL so that it encompasses practices that develop resilience and community efficacy. We are trying to help educators understand that SEL needs to integrate the practices of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), and Culturally and Linguistically Responsive pedagogy (CLR). We are at the beginning of this journey so would appreciate advice from anyone else who is doing this work.

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I appreciate your reply, Susan. I believe SEL training for educators should complement structured and continuous hands-on instruction provided to children and youth. Thus far, SEL favors staff training leaving PBIS to address student behavior. The challenge with PBIS is the "Institutional" approach amongst diverse ethnic populations. Current industrial-age learning groups students, as PBIS reinforces conformity and compliance. While PBIS establishes the school climate and culture, it doesn't improve or strengthen the individual behavior of students. One size does not fit all. Education has boxed in our kids, stagnating their creativity. Today's kids are pretty sharp with access to a smartphone full of intelligence - K-12 has to catch up, embrace youth-positive trends, and their professional desire.

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