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SMHPW Policy Recommendation 2

Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup (SMHPW) second recommendation to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Recommendation 2: Comprehensive Partnerships and Collaborative Teams to Support Student Mental Health in School Safety Planning

The Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup (SMHPW) recommends that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) encourage local agencies to work together to develop comprehensive school-based mental health programs.

Working together as a team, school staff, school and district boards, county offices of education, and community agencies can be more effective in providing needed assistance to students and their families to support student mental health. 

  • Comprehensive partnerships and collaborative teams need to be developed at both the school and district level to support student mental health needs and ensure that all students receive the care they need. Multi-tiered systems that include health care plans and health care providers should be part of this system.
  • School districts need to establish collaboration between county mental health programs and county mental health plans and providers, enabling schools to evaluate all children demonstrating behaviors that indicate likely mental health issues.
  • Schools and districts are encouraged to build collaborative partnerships with families and communities to address the mental health needs of students as a key strategy in the continuous improvement process. 
  • Teams should be trained in the confidentiality requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Reinforcing the district’s commitment to student confidentiality is essential to developing student and parent confidence and trust in the work of the collaborative teams.
  • An example of local collaboration should be found in the work of county School Attendance Review Boards (SARB). California Education Code (EC) Section 48321(a)(2)(K) requires that all county SARBs include a mental health representative. Local SARBs also should actively recruit mental health representatives to serve on their boards, per EC Section 48321(b)(1)(K).

The SMHPW further recommends that the SSPI continue to play a leadership role in encouraging schools to consider student mental health when developing school safety plans, and should augment the current Safe Schools Planning Checklist (Checklist).

School safety committees are required by EC sections 32280–32289 to annually review and update their school’s Comprehensive School Safety Plan. These plans can be critical in the case of emergencies, providing a guide to implement prevention strategies and respond to suicidal, homicidal, or other emergency situations. (See Safe Schools Planning)

The following additions should be made to the existing Checklist:

Assessments of School Safety

  • Include the Youth Risk Behavior Survey data and the California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey data in the Assessments of School Safety category in the Comprehensive School Safety Plan.

Discipline Policies and Practices


  • Work with the SSPI to seek additional funding for school safety by supporting state and federal grant legislation to improve access to comprehensive student mental health services.

Professional Development Activities

As part of Professional Development Activities in the school safety planning process, the SSPI recommends that districts and schools send teams to the Training Educators through Recognition and Identification Strategies Training of Trainers Workshops. The expectation is for trained teams to return to their sites and train all school staff at their sites on identification and recognition of student mental health issues annually.

  • Utilize evidence-based or community-defined best practice training tools such as Mental Health First Aid, which is designed to train all school personnel on how to recognize symptoms of mental health conditions and determine an appropriate first response.
  • Schedule reviews with all school personnel on the school safety plan and existing prevention efforts at least annually, to prepare the staff for any type of crisis, including a mental health crisis and post-crisis (postvention).
  • Conduct annual training in student mental health for all school personnel, including certificated and classified employees. Districts and schools should seek trainings for school staff and families on the issue of student mental health.

Counseling and Wellness Services

  • Designate a trained person at each school site to handle referrals related to student physical and mental health to collaborative district and community partners.
  • Designate a point person, identified by the school district, who is charged with the following:
    • Activating and coordinating a crisis response team
    • Overseeing the district suicide prevention policy
    • Coordinating a timely crisis debriefing for first responders
    • Reviewing feedback after a school mental health crisis occurs

Collaborative Relationships

  • Implement a cross-system agreement or Memorandum of Understanding between local agencies.
  • Include partnerships with families, mental health professionals, community-based organizations (CBO), county departments, health plan providers and practitioners, and agencies focusing on student mental health.
  • Ensure that all partners use practices that adhere to confidentiality laws.  
  • Ensure that districts and schools create partnerships with local mental health agencies/organizations and utilize programs that incorporate individuals with “lived experience,” to help develop effective district and school mental health and wellness frameworks.
  • Ensure that the school has access to culturally and ethnically diverse CBOs. Parent-teacher associations and organizations should be involved in reaching out to schools to engage all parents, guardians, and caregivers in discussions relating to student mental health and wellness. This could include educational meetings for students, families, and staff about mental health in an overall wellness framework.
  • Districts should access mental health experts in their area for consultation in developing policy and providing services to support student mental health.

Safe Schools Programs and Strategies

  • Add the following elements to theSafe Schools Programs and Strategies section of the Checklist:
    • Youth suicide prevention and postvention
    • Anti-stigma mental health and youth suicide prevention strategies

Campus Security

  • Create school site crisis teams that include a diverse group of school staff members designated to participate when the school annually reviews and updates its Comprehensive School Safety Plan. Mental health professionals also should be included as part of this team.

Questions: Rico Petrino | | 916-319-0229 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 25, 2023