In the wake of high-profile school shootings, many schools over the past decade have invested scarce educational funds into putting more police in schools. School districts have shown a near obsession with “hardening” schools despite federal data revealing that the real crisis of schools isn’t violence, but a broad failure to hire enough support staff to serve students’ mental health needs.
Today’s students are experiencing record levels of depression and anxiety and many forms of trauma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among children ages 10 to 17 increased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2016. Approximately 72 percent of children in the United States will have experienced at least one major stressful event — such as witnessing violence, experiencing abuse, or experiencing the loss of a loved one — before the age of 18.
School counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, or traumatized — especially in low-income districts. The benefits of investing in mental health services are clear: Schools with such services see improved attendance rates, better academic achievement, and higher graduation rates as well as lower rates of suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary incidents. Data shows that the presence of school-based mental health providers not only improves outcomes for students, but can also improve overall school safety.