Rochester Public Schools evaluates mental health needs and services throughout the district
Nearly 90% of the emotional wellness workers estimated that 25% or more of the students in their building struggled with mental health.
ROCHESTER — Before making a lot of changes moving forward in its initiative to address students' mental health, Rochester Public Schools is first undertaking an inventory on what it already has in place.
The School Board held a study session Tuesday, looking at both the mental health services offered in the district and the amount of need for those services among the student population.
"We really need to create an accurate and a user-friendly resource map," said Koni Grimsrud, director of student services. "We need to know where our resources are. We need to know who has access to them."
Tuesday's mental health discussion comes on the heels of the district receiving a $1.9 million federal grant aimed at addressing mental health needs.
School leaders didn't discuss anything specific about how that funding will be used in the district, although they did acknowledge it as an important asset.
"It will matter in how we're able to make next steps forward," Grimsrud said.
In addition to mapping the district's resources to get a grasp on what exactly is available to students, Grimsrud said the district needs to develop screening procedures for students who receive mental health referrals. She also stressed the importance of developing early intervention systems so the district can get ahead of the issues.
The board also reviewed data from students themselves, as reported by various sources. An informal survey of the district's emotional and mental wellness workers indicated the top three contributors to students' mental health struggles were unstable home environments, social media and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In general, male students have self-reported fewer mental health issues than their female counterparts. The Minnesota Student Survey asked students whether they have "any long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems."
According to the survey, 31% of eighth-grade females responded "yes" to the question, compared to 15% of their male eighth-grade counterparts. In ninth grade, 38% of female students responded "yes" to the question, compared to 14% of male students. In eleventh grade, 48% of female students responded "yes" to the question, compared to 18% of male students.
The differences between male and female student answers was present throughout many of the questions.
"Culturally speaking, we allow young girls to access their feelings more readily than boys," board member Jess Garcia said.
The emotional and mental wellness workers, which include professionals such as counselors and social workers, were also asked the question "based on your observations, what percentage of the student population in your building struggles with some form of mental health challenge?
Nearly 90% of the emotional wellness workers survey estimated that 25% or more of the students in their building struggled with mental health.
"They estimate that quite a large percentage of the student population has some sort of mental health struggle," said Sarah Clarke, a coordinator of social emotional learning at RPS. "That's information for us to know and to think about how we might intervene with students going forward."
What happened: The Rochester School Board held a study session about the mental health services available in the district as well as the amount of need for those services among the district's student population.
Why does this matter: Mental health has become one of the biggest issues among K-12 students, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What's next: The information discussed during the study session will inform the district's decisions moving forward in how it utilizes a $1.9 million federal grant focused on addressing mental health needs.