Guest editorial: Bill proposing mental health grants for schools is misguided
Utah has a bill on the docket (H.B. 323) proposing to offer mental health screenings for kids in school to help counteract suicide rates in kids. What is not being said here is what is even scarier. Our children do not need another tool to label them as problematic. Why this is being introduced in a place of learning is very scary to me as a parent and should be for you as well. Let’s look at the fundamentals of this bill.
This bill creates a grant program to award grants to participating schools to administer mental health screening programs for students and amends provisions related to the distribution and use of funds for school-based mental health support.
A grant program? Clearly, the schools are going to want the grant money, so even the loudest opposing parent has no way to control this program being introduced into their district.
This bill permits the state board to use funds appropriated for school-based mental health support to pay an employee to administer the program and oversee mental health personnel in LEAs.
Furthermore, this bill doesn’t clarify who regulates the program’s recommendations. Clearly, any parent can see the problems that could arise. When we take a one-size-fits-all state screening and remove the professionals designed to administer such tests and hand it over to our educators, there are an unlimited amount of problems that can and will arise. Who mandates the recommendations of such a screening and ensures the results are not commingled with other potentially private data? This is a very slippery slope and opens the school system up to such a large array of lawsuits that this whole bill moves beyond helpful into the realm of hurtful mandates on our kids.
Students have so many pressures they worry about on a day-to-day basis, now they need to worry about labels being slapped on them at the place where they are supposed to flourish and spread their wings? A child being labeled as depressed or anxious now needs to worry one bad day at school could cause a lifetimes worth of clinical diagnosis.
No one is disputing the fact that suicide is a problem for our children. It most certainly is. Creating an environment where the student can actually feel safe speaking to someone about their mental health concerns is paramount. Spending more money on our teachers and educators training and resources is a far better use of resources. Providing a safe environment where students are not being bullied or labeled is a better solution, not providing more mental health impositions or labels they will spend a lifetime trying to get rid of. As kids, their brains are inherently neuroplastic and their brain chemistry is still moldable and changing. Creating another ability for Big Pharma to step in and change their fundamental brain chemistry permanently is not a solution we should be inviting in.
This bill has far too many implications that could be detrimental to be taken at face value. I don’t think we as parents are ready to hand over all of our parenting choices and leave it in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry to correct for us. I myself still have hope that, together, parents can work together to build a firmer footing for our youth. One that supports and teaches love and tolerance of one another despite our differences. Maybe it’s idealistic but I’m not ready to condemn our youth and remove their rights to grow up in a world unmedicated.
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