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NASBE’s Standard Explores Ways State Policymakers Can Advance Student Safety and Wellness

Alexandria, Va. – The horrific school shootings in Florida and elsewhere in 2018 sparked new rounds of questioning across the country about how to prevent such tragedies and keep students safe. As state board members and other stakeholders review and consider the recommendations of the Federal Commission on School Safety released last December, the new issue of NASBE’s State Education Standard explores the web of issues that intersect student safety and wellness, including students’ physical, mental, social, and emotional health and the quality of their learning environment. Authors point out that policies to support the whole child can have lasting effects on student outcomes.

The issue starts with an essay from Colorado State Board Member Jane Goff, who recounts how she and her colleagues in Jefferson County, Colorado, struggled together to respond to the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings. She argues that a critical first step in school crisis prevention and response is taking time to build and nurture relationships between and among educators and students. 

Architect Brian Minnich explains how school buildings and campuses can be designed to deter threats to student safety while promoting a positive, nurturing learning environment. And Erika Eitland and Joseph Allen reprise their Schools for Health report on how poor building quality exacerbates student and staff illness. “Ensuring healthy indoor environments is not just jargon but a strategy to help students reach their full potential,” they write.

Several articles address the impediments to learning that come from inattention to student health and wellness. Researchers from Child Trends provide useful context, with findings from a study of what state board members and other stakeholders and policymakers rank as highest priorities for advancing child health and wellness. Mental health is high on the list.

Sharon A. Hoover delves into the alarming prevalence of childhood traumas and their impact on the classroom. She notes several state policy efforts and resources to support trauma-informed schools.

Harvard researcher Stephanie Jones and colleagues offer guidance to state boards that are aiming to build up social and emotional learning statewide. They suggest that SEL can serve as a foundation for implementing a range of state efforts, from early childhood education, to college and career readiness, and school climate and discipline initiatives. NASBE Senior Policy Associate Megan Blanco showcases states that are advancing SEL and other student wellness initiatives.

School and public health experts Susan Goekler, Elaine Auld, and David Birch urge states not to overlook the role health education can play in ensuring that students are socially and emotionally competent. Strong, comprehensive, and well-taught health ed provides a natural home for curriculum to foster healthier students, they write.

In the NASBE Interview, Montgomery County Chief of Police Tom Manger speaks about the role of school resource officers (SROs) and what state boards should know and ask about SRO programs in their states.

 

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