Leaders from the state’s Educational Service Districts (ESDs) joined legislators, school staff and student representatives on September 22, for a news conference urging broader support and additional funding for school safety and student mental health services.
During the news conference, State Representative Laurie Dolan asked lawmakers to fully fund House Bill 1216, which puts resources and training in place to prevent and intervene in mental health, behavioral health, gun violence, or suicide crises.
Educators agree that without additional action from the Legislature, students will go without the mental and behavioral supports they need to succeed academically in a safe environment.
Speakers at the press conference included:
- Kevin Alfano, Fife School District superintendent
- Washington State Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-22)
- Brooke Mittelstaedt, Columbia Jr. High School 9th grader and ASB President
- John Welch, Superintendent, Puget Sound Educational Service District
In the 2019 session, the legislature funded one Threat Assessment position at each of the nine ESDs, but Dolan called for more funding earmarked specifically for two additional positions – one focused on behavioral health and one responsible for safety planning and coordination with school districts. Threat Assessment uses early interventions to identify, evaluate and support students who present significant threats to themselves or others.
In his remarks at the news conference, Alfano spoke about the importance of adequate funding for mental health and behavioral supports. “Without action from our Legislature, students will continue to go without essential mental health and behavioral supports that they need and deserve,” Alfano said. “The majority of our students are able to cope with these stressors with the supports of their families. However, more and more students do not have adequate support systems in their life outside of school.”
Ensuring Washington’s students learn in safe and healthy environments is also at the top of State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s funding priorities. OSPI submitted its request for approximately $4 million to add the two recommended positions in the supplemental state budget, as well as pay for other student health and safety services.