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Report finds more mental health services needed in schools

A new report on student discipline says schools need more mental health services, counselors and training for teachers dealing with student trauma.

The report comes from a working group convened by the Legislature and was heard in the Senate education policy committee Thursday.

It calls for more funding for schools to hire support staff like social workers, psychologists, nurses and counselors.

"When our students are in school it's not just an academic piece, there's social-emotional pieces to students as well, we're not just compartmentalized," said Hiawatha College Prep dean of students Cristin Craig, who worked on the report.

Last fall, 77 schools got help hiring support staff with $12 million in matching state grants.

The discipline report also calls for funding to link schools with community clinics that provide mental health services. It suggests increased data collection on school police officers, tracking use of school police and how often officers use force with students.

But the concerns the report outlines are not new.

"What surprised me is that we're still recommending the same things that people have been saying for a long time. We're still saying that we need mental health funding for students and we've known for awhile that this is a thing that is necessary," Craig said.

She noted that the group included few people of color and students.

"We have continued to do the same things where we have a lot of mostly white, middle class people making decisions, and then we continue to see the same results which is a significant disproportionality in discipline," Craig said.

The report recommends that the education department coordinate a project to reduce racial disparities in discipline that includes those affected by the problem.

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