In the past twenty years, American schools experienced a rapid increase in mass shootings. Schools saw the need to train staff and students to prepare for an active shooter situation. In Mississippi, the Mississippi House Education Committee outlined the requirements for training and preparation. In May of 2019, HB 1283, or the Mississippi School Safety Act, officially became law. But the Act doesn’t just require active shooter drills. HB 1283 also requires schools to support students’ mental health. Now that the U.S. faces an unprecedented pandemic, supporting students’ mental health is absolutely crucial. The mental health requirements in Mississippi’s School Safety Act can save student lives, even if they’re learning at home.
What is the Mississippi School Safety Act?
There are two main components of the Mississippi School Safety Act. The first mandates active shooter drills at the beginning of each semester. The second requires schools to be prepared to assist students struggling with mental health. This also requires schools to find and train counselors for their students. School staff must attend mental health training every two years as well. Other preparations could include professional referrals and the ability to perform health screenings on struggling students. Schools will need to develop a close relationship with nearby mental health professionals. This way, they can work together for the best interest of the students.
Reporting is Crucial
Mississippi schools understand that prevention includes reporting dangerous or self-destructive behavior. Certain specific behaviors and actions can indicate a school shooter’s mindset. These possible indications include a lack of remorse or an obsession with firearms. Mississippi schools have implemented a report training app called “See Something, Send Something” created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “allow[s] a person with a smartphone to take a photo of something they feel is suspicious, add a small note as to why they are concerned, and have it delivered immediately to the MS Analysis and Information Center.” By using similar apps and programs to increase awareness, shootings can be prevented and student lives saved. These programs can also help students suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and thoughts of self-harm.
Why the Act is Desperately Needed: Teen Struggles with Mental Health
Overall, 1 in 10 teens will experience a severe episode of depression. Also, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in teens. However, only 4% of the total health care budget is used to increase mental health availability. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated issues with mental health. Since March, reports of anxiety and depression have tripled. Students may feel isolated with less face-to-face contact with friends. Additionally, students report higher levels of stress and difficulty with concentration. Now more than ever, it’s essential to monitor students’ mental health, as laws like HB 1283 require. Screen-monitoring software like LearnSafe helps schools help struggling students, even if they’re learning at home. For example, LearnSafe recently detected a student stating their intention to self-harm. LearnSafe notified the school safety team, who took action to intervene and help this student.
Text by Kassie Roberts