House Education Committee Sends Callous Message on Students’ Mental Heath
In a disturbing development this week, several members of the House Education Committee openly criticized the recommendation from Governor Little’s K-12 task force that would increase training and resources to support the mental and emotional health of Idaho students. During a presentation by State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, committee members questioned the necessity and validity of the recommendation. Rep. Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls, even floated the idea of “taking them out behind the woodshed,” when discussing an increase in disruptive behaviors.
“Advocating for child abuse is not an acceptable response to a legitimate problem,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “Disruptive behaviors are frequently the result of previous trauma, and the notion of inflicting more trauma as a means of resolution is ludicrous”.
Committee members also fanned the flames with comments about wanting parents and counselors to be in leading roles in addressing students’ mental and emotional health.
“We absolutely need more parental involvement in making sure our students are safe and healthy,” says McInelly. “However, it is not an either-or proposition. We also need more resources and support in our school buildings and in our communities.”
“As for counselors, Idaho’s student to counselor ratio is nowhere near the recommended level and far too often our counselors are pulled into other duties that limit their ability to focus on the emotional well-being of students,” says McInelly. “We have great counselors in Idaho schools, but they are too few and stretched too thin. When properly trained, classroom teachers can provide a first line of defense and potentially head off suicide or other drastic incidents before they occur.”
Read more about this week’s incendiary meeting in this story from Idaho Education News.
We expect legislation related to the task force recommendation on students’ mental and emotional health to be introduced soon. The cruel approach taken thus far by the House Education Committee is unacceptable. As educators, we know the modern-day toll being taken by depression, anxiety, bullying, self-harm, and suicide. The time is now to share your experiences on social media. Use the hashtag #AskanEducator.
Content and Certification Standards Approved by Senate Education Committee
On a more positive note, the voices of IEA members and other experts in education finally carried the day, with the Senate Education Committee voting unanimously to retain all of Idaho’s content and teacher certification standards in their current form. The House Education Committee had previously voted to scuttle all content standards (with no replacement) and added to the lunacy be also voting not to renew Idaho’s standards relating to teacher training and certification. Since the standards are part of a rules package, they only need approval from one of the Education Committees to take effect.
“Kudos to Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls and the entire Senate Education Committee for taking a measured, rational approach,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We know that IEA members throughout the state expressed their support for the standards and we are encouraged to see that their voices were heard.”
Sen. Mortimer also introduced a resolution that would establish an interim committee to look at reviewing the current standards and potentially rewriting them over the next three to five years. This resolution has passed the full Senate and is being transmitted to the House.
“As long as input from education practitioners is included in the process, the interim committee is a good, common-sense solution,” says McInelly.
IEA Lobby Day—Part 2
IEA members had so many great conversations with legislators during Lobby Day on January 20 that we are doing it again this Monday, Presidents Day. Members from across the state will be talking with their legislators at the capitol.
If you can’t make it in person, use this as an opportunity to set up a meeting with your legislator when he/she is back in the community. Or email/call them to let them know what issues are on your mind and that you want them to respect all professional educators. Not sure who your legislator is? Find out here!