Bay District Schools look to community partners for mental health education instruction

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — In line with the state’s mental health education mandate which was created earlier this year, Bay District school board members presented their plan to fulfill the requirements of the mandate on Tuesday.

“Each district in Florida has to submit a plan by December 1st of 2019,” said Kara Mulkusky, the Director of Student Services for BDS.

The mandate requires schools in all districts to provide education for students K-12 on various topics, like substance abuse and human trafficking. More specifically, it requires five hours of education for students in 6th through 12th grades which is to include mental health education. 

However, none of that additional instruction is funded by the state and Bay District school board members are not putting the burden on teachers to provide it. 

“As you can imagine, some of the components of these requirements are very sensitive topics,” said Mulkusky. “Content instructional teachers might not necessarily be equipped or comfortable having such conversations with their students.”

Instead they’re turning to community partners, like the Department of Health, to help. 

“We’re excited to give the students this information that we feel like they really need,” said Tammy Stewart, the positive youth development director for FDOH-Bay. Stewart oversees ‘Freedom 180,’ a group with the health department that has been doing this kind of instruction for some Bay District Schools since 2001. 

Now, they’ll be working in all BDS high schools to help fulfill the requirement. 

“Both of us felt like this would be a good start for this and that we can meet those needs just by adding a little bit more to our curriculum,” said Stewart.

For middle schools, online education through EverFi will be used. 

“We’re very excited to make sure that this is a priority for our students, just as much as academic content,” said Mulkusky.

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