student sitting against lockers with head in hands, distraughtTeachers: First Responders In Mental Health Situations?

There’s no doubt that there’s an increasing concern about student violence among secondary school community stakeholders. Now, legislators in New York state are taking action. Under a bill sponsored by State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Sen. Jesse Hamilton, teachers would become the “first line of defense” in combating mental health problems among students. The measure would require that teachers be instructed in “mental health first aid” to better identify students with problems and help them obtain treatment. Under the proposed measure, “mental health first aid would be included among continuing education courses that teachers are required to receive every five years.”

FCC Expected to Step Squarely into the Digital Divide Debate

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is on the verge of entering one of the major debates in secondary education today—the divide that exists between the “haves” and “have-nots” in terms of access to technology and the Internet. To combat this disparity, the FCC is expected to repurpose the $2 billion-a-year phone subsidy program called Lifeline to include broadband services in low-income homes. While Lifeline has faced strong criticism from the Republicans on the FCC, advocacy groups for children and minorities support the plan, asserting that it is necessary to keep disadvantaged students from falling further behind their peers.

Transgender Facilities Issue Heats Up

Most school districts are following the Department of Education’s guidance on transgender facilities, which states that under Title IX they are prohibited from denying transgender students “access to the facilities of their choice.” However, there may be a brewing backlash to this mandate. For example, in South Dakota, lawmakers recently passed a measure that would require “transgender children and teenagers to use the school facilities that correspond to their ‘chromosomes and anatomy’ at birth,” which was vetoed by the governor. This remains a hot-button issue nationally, so stay tuned.

Congress to Consider Dual High School, College Enrollment Measure

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is introducing a bill that would permit the Department of Education to create a grant program to implement dual and concurrent high school and college enrollment programs. The bipartisan legislation, also sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would offer professional training to educators to teach such courses and assist with course design, student counseling, and supporting the course approval processes. The motivation behind the legislation: savings on college costs for families.