MN schools need more mental health services, new report says

A report on student discipline from the Minnesota Department of Education.
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Kids in Minnesota schools need more mental health services, according to a new report.

The findings are part of a report on student discipline from the Minnesota Department of Education. It was written by a working group summoned by the state legislature, with the goal of "improving disciplinary policies, practices, and procedures."

Among the findings, the report calls for more funding for schools to hire support staff like school counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, behavior support specialists, and mental health professionals.

It also recommends funds to connect schools with community clinics that provide mental health services, as well as training for school staff and resource officers on mental health and de-escalation strategies.

"Increased funding is necessary in order to add and implement strategies that create a positive school culture, provide support and training for staff members and increase support personnel in schools," the report says.

Hiawatha College Prep dean of students Cristin Craig is one of the members who worked on the report, and told MPR that the concerns it 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.

You can read the full report here.

Racial disparity

Another issue discussed in the report is racial disparities in student discipline.

Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Latino, multi-race students, and students with disabilities are being dismissed from school at a disproportionate rate, the report says.

It also notes that male students, particularly those in one or more of the above groups, are dismissed from school more often than females.

The Star Tribune says it's an on-going problem at schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The report recommends that the state legislature fund a pilot project coordinated with the education department to reduce racial disparities in student discipline.

It also calls for establishing "clear due process" for all student dismissals, including information in multiple languages and separate versions for elementary and secondary students.

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