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New legislation would require K-12 mental health curriculum along with a comprehensive package of education legislation announced



January 11, 2020
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Friday, Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage) pre-filed legislation that expands existing health education requirements to include mental health curriculum in all K-12 health classrooms. The goal is to make sure students are adequately educated on vital information about mental health symptoms, resources, and treatment.

House Bill 181 requires the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (“DEED”) to develop guidelines for mental health instruction in consultation with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (“DHSS”) as well as representatives of national and state mental health organizations. The standards will be developed with input from counselors, educators, students, administrators, and other mental health organizations to form a comprehensive course for students. 

The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development and DEED would be responsible for implementation of the new curriculum. As with existing health education curriculum, DEED, DHSS, and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault will provide technical assistance to school districts developing personal safety curricula. An existing school health education specialist position will help coordinate the program statewide. 

“According to the 2017 Alaska High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which surveyed 1,343 high school students across the state, more than one in three students reported feeling sad or hopeless,” Representative Claman said. “The state has a responsibility to treat the current mental health crisis in Alaska as a serious public health issue.”

HB181 aims to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness and increase student knowledge of mental health, encouraging conversation around and understanding of the issue. 

As he was developing this proposal, Representative Claman met with students to discuss their ideas on ways we could improve mental health outcomes.

HB181 will be formally introduced and receive committee assignments when the Legislature reconvenes on January 21. For more information, please contact Lizzie Kubitz in Rep. Claman’s office at (907) 465-4904.

Also this week, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers released a comprehensive package on Friday of education legislation aimed at making Alaska the best place to raise a family. 

The suite of bills addresses a wide variety of issues, including expansion of Early Head Start, universal Pre-K, an effort to increase reading skills for children by the third grade, removal of caps on scholarships Alaska students receive when attending an in-state university, and rolling back years of funding cuts to K-12 students and programs that benefit young and disabled children.

The founding members of the Alaska Children’s Caucus spearheaded this initiative. 

Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) will introduce legislation to expand the top tier of the Alaska Performance Scholarship to cover full tuition, and to create a Childcare Tax Credit based on the Education Tax Credit. “It's a win-win that gives outstanding students another reason to enroll in the University of Alaska,” Representative Fields said. 

Rep. Sarah Rasmussen (R-Anchorage), a co-chair of the Children's Caucus, introduced a bill to mandate more exercise and physical activity during recess. “Students learn better and are more engaged during school if they have time for exercise,” Representative Rasmussen said. Currently, the Municipality of Anchorage has a pilot program at participating schools to offer comprehensive recess for K-12 students. The bill, known as “Play Every Day,” has a companion bill in the Senate offered by Sen. Mia Costello. 

Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage)co-chair of the Children’s Caucus,said, “It warms my heart to see the fruit of the Children’s Caucus coming together. My hope in helping to restart the caucus last year was to have a renewed focus on our precious children. I am proud of the work this diverse group of lawmakers has put in so far, but there is more work to do.” 

Rep. Grier Hopkins (D-Fairbanks) will be introducing legislation to secure predictable and equitable access to Early Head Start. “The sooner we provide educational support for kids and families, the greater our return on investment,” Representative Hopkins said.

Representatives Andi Story (D-Juneau) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), co-chairs of the House Education Committee and former school board members, have prioritized working on early childhood and education legislation. “We know pre-K education helps our kids succeed and strengthens Alaska’s workforce so our state is more competitive,” Representative Drummond said. Representative Story added, “It’s critical we stabilize funding for K-12 schools to provide the best education possible for every student in the state.”


Source of News:

Office of Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage)

Alaska State Legislature Joint Release
Office of Rep Zack Fields (D-Anchorage)
Office of Rep. Sarah Rasmussen (R-Anchorage),

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