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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #18-66
October 16, 2018
Contact: Jonathan Mendick
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Applauds Signing of
Mental Health Legislation

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson thanked Governor Brown for signing legislation last month that will improve mental health support for students. As a teacher, legislator, county supervisor, and State Superintendent, Torlakson has long worked on trying to improve mental health awareness and treatment, suicide prevention, and school safety.

“This is a great step toward ensuring students’ mental health needs are better met so they can succeed in the classroom and in life,” said Torlakson, who started his career as a high school science teacher and served as a track and cross country coach. “Research demonstrates that 20 percent of students in our K–12 schools suffer from a mental health issue that affects their home, school, and the community. Schools play a big role by providing a caring and supportive environment and work to identify mental health problems early so students can receive the treatment they need.”

Mental health-related bills signed by Governor Brown include:

  • Senate Bill 972 by Senator Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, requires public schools, private schools, and public and private institutions of higher education that issue pupil identification cards to include the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline or the Crisis Text Line.
  • Assembly Bill 1436 by Assemblymember Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, requires an applicant for license as a marriage and family therapist, educational psychologist, clinical social worker, or professional clinical counselor to show that he or she has completed a minimum of six hours of coursework or applied experience in suicide risk assessment and intervention.
  • Assembly Bill 2022 by Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D-Milpitas, requires all schools to inform, at least twice a year, pupils and parents or guardians how to access available student mental health services on campus or in the community. The bill also allows counties to use funds from the Mental Health Services Act to provide grants to schools to develop and distribute the notifications.
  • Assembly Bill 2639 by Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Los Altos, requires schools that serve students in grades seven through twelve to review policies on pupil suicide prevention every five years and update the policy, if necessary. AB 2639 also permits local educational agencies to update the policy more frequently.

In September, Torlakson recognized Suicide Prevention Month by speaking to students about preventing youth suicide. He also participated in the “Walk Out of Darkness” rally to show support for those who have lost loved ones. In October, he announced that the California Department of Education (CDE) secured $1 million in grant funding under the federal STOP School Violence Act and will work with the national nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise to train district and school staff to respond to mental health crises and expand current youth mental health first aid trainings. This year, Torlakson also started a Mental Health Multi-Agency Planning and Coordination Group, which is working to increase partnerships with local mental health agencies to improve the availability and quality of a continuum of mental health services in school districts.

Visit the CDE’s Mental Health web page for information about strategies, resources, and training in psychological and mental health issues, including coping with tragedy, crisis intervention and prevention, school psychology, and suicide prevention.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 22, 2020
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