A national nonprofit released a new resource Wednesday to help school districts around the country better support students’ mental wellbeing, an effort that Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara was involved with.
Chiefs for Change, a network of state and school district leaders, created the “District Student Wellbeing Services Reflection Tool” to help teachers and other school officials identify and address student needs, connect students with mental health services and promote safe environments.
It comes after three national organizations — the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association — declared a national state of emergency for children’s mental health in October.
The organizations said they’ve seen increasing rates of mental health challenges among children during the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding pre-pandemic issues.
The Chiefs for Change announcement Wednesday includes information from the Clark County School District, the nation’s fifth largest with more than 300,000 students.
Jara, a member of Chiefs for Change, said in the release that districts nationwide have a variety of challenges and need customized plans to support students’ physical and mental health.
“Tragically, we have had 24 students take their own lives since the start of the pandemic,” Jara said in the release. “That pain is unspeakable. I will carry it with me for the rest of my life, and I know the same is certainly true for the families and everyone in our community who cared about these kids.”
Jara said his team is doing everything it can think of to find and help children who are struggling.
“We are using a sophisticated mental health screener and are visiting students at home,” he said. “We have also assembled teams at every campus that are focused on supporting our kids who are hurting.”
On Tuesday, the school district announced it’s canceling two days of classes as part of a “five-day pause” that begins Friday due to “extreme staffing shortages” caused by an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The district has been operating with full-time in-person classes this school year, with an online option through its Nevada Learning Academy at CCSD.
Students were under 100 percent distance learning for about a year starting in March 2020 before the district reopened schools for at least some in-person classes in spring 2021.