On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the NJSBA will officially release “Building a Foundation for Hope,” the report of its Task Force on Mental Health Services in the Public Schools. The report contains over 70 recommendations and provides guidance and information to boards of education, school administrators and other public school leaders, educators, families and the communities.

The release of the report will take place at Highland Park High School, 102 North 5th Ave., Highland Park, N.J.  The event starts at 7 p.m. with registration at 6:30 p.m.

Among the key findings in the report that will be discussed on Oct. 15:

  • Young people’s access to mental health services is severely limited. Among youth ages 8 to 15 with diagnosed mental illnesses, approximately half do not receive mental health services, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  • No school is suicide-proof. The New Jersey Department of Children and Families reports that 2,731 young people, ages 10 to 24, were treated in hospital emergency rooms for attempted suicide or self-inflicted injuries in 2013 through 2015, the latest statistics available. Within the same age group, 283 suicides were reported.
  • School officials cannot address the mental health situation alone. Collaboration is essential. The safety of children depends on everyone who interacts with them. Schools, state and local government, community organizations and law enforcement must be partners in ensuring the safety and emotional well-being of youth.
  • Trust among students and staff is essential for a safe and healthy school climate. For example, in four out of five school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it, according to Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization. Not only does this statistic illustrate the need for anonymous tip lines but, equally significant, it necessitates programs and procedures that ensure that each student has a trusting relationship with at least one adult in the school.

Based on these and other findings, the task force has issued more than 70 recommendations in nine areas, including social-emotional learning, crisis response, school climate, community outreach, and equity.