Following the February tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers have proposed a spending bill projected to provide $1.1 billion to support school safety and mental health resources. This is nearly triple the amount of funds received by the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, or Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in the 2017-2018 school year. The money is expected to broaden mental and health services within schools; for bullying prevention, educator development for crisis management and violence prevention strategies.
The money can be for a multitude of programs, initiatives and services, including mindfulness programs in schools. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists, was clear, saying, “We’ve tried to say this is not just a ‘school safety’ fund. We recognize and value the importance of a well-rounded education.”
Districts receiving more than $30,000 under Title IV must do an examination to assess their needs. Upon examination, 20% of the funding must be used to provide one activity to help students become well-rounded. Another 20% of the funding must be used to provide an activity which promotes health and safety. The remaining 60% is to be used at the discretion of the district.
Districts can leverage Title IV funding to support mindfulness programs in schools, which is a complement to any school-based SEL initiative. According to Linda Lantieri, founding member of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “one [SEL] works from the outside-in—and the other [mindfulness] works from the inside-out. When the two come together in the mind of a student, the effect can be powerful.”
Mindfulness, which is the awareness of emotions, thoughts and physical sensations, efficiently addresses the five SEL competencies when coupled with SEL- leading to durable, prosocial student behavioral outcomes. Mindfulness is most effective as a consistent, daily practice.
As an example, Inner Explorer, a daily, a non-profit organization committed to teacher and student well-being through mindfulness in the classroom, offers a web-based, audio-guided program for Pre-K through 12th grade students that can be easily implemented in any curriculum, supporting SEL initiatives. With classroom programs like Inner Explorer bolstering SEL curricula, districts can truly make a difference in the lives of their students.
The legislation has not been officially passed in Congress, but many districts have already started to plan how they will allocate the money. Inner Explorer sees this as an opportunity to support mindfulness in schools and continue to enhance students’ readiness to learn.
Author: Maureik Robison