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SEAC throws support behind funding added mental health initiatives in schools

With the budget process well underway, the Loudoun County Public Schools Special Education Advisory Committee has asked the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the school system’s proposed mental health service expansions.

The committee recently penned a letter to the Board of Supervisors and School Board to express its support. The Board of Supervisors is holding its next public hearing on the budget Saturday at 9 a.m. at the LCPS Administration Building in Ashburn.

Last year, the School Board funded mental health teams comprised of school counselors and one psychologist and one social worker at each high school. The feedback from the increased number of psychologists and social workers inspired the School Board to propose instituting similar unified support teams at the middle school level.

This expansion would cost $3.2 million and would fund 17 additional school counselors, seven additional social workers and seven additional psychologist

“Students receiving special education services and those with 504’s are especially susceptible to mental health concerns. Likewise, the warning signs and symptoms of mental health issues within the special needs population are often manifested differently than their non-disabled peers,” the SEAC letter read. “We also wish to affirm our full endorsement for expanding current mental health supports in the schools and especially for increasing mental health supports at the middle school level where these services are as important as they are at the high school level. “

SEAC said it recognizes the difficult decisions supervisors have to make when attempting to balance the budget and it implores supervisors to preserve the funding from the School Board’s approved budget designated for increasing mental health personnel and services throughout LCPS, further stating this is a high priority for parents in LCPS.

The committee pointed to the Virginia PTA Resolution, Mental Health Return to Learn Safety Net Process, that was introduced and unanimously approved on Jan. 27, that illuminated the increasing prevalence of youth suicides and suicide attempts in Virginia.

It also underscored the vital role schools play in addressing the critical needs of students who have been treated by licensed mental, medical and behavioral health practitioners and are ready to “return to learn” in the public school system, the letter stated.

Suicide is the second-largest cause of death among individuals age 10 to 14, Superintendent Eric Williams said when presenting this budget initiative to supervisors in early February. According to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and American Psychological Association, one in five adolescents struggle with serious mental health concerns, which can affect every aspect of the child’s life and functioning, including success in school.

SEAC also identified Mental Health Awareness and Integrative Supports as one of committee’s six top priorities for the 2017-2018 school year in last year’s annual report. The committee identified a system-wide need to: “Create policies and implement consistent practices to recognize, monitor and support students at risk or experiencing mental health concerns and provide appropriate staff training, resources and in-school programs that enable inclusion and eliminate discipline disproportionality while utilizing appropriately trained and licensed mental health professionals to integrate services for the whole student.”

Committee Chairwoman Carol Williams-Nickelson said that recommendation is not limited to the high school level, and SEAC supports an increase in age-appropriate prevention, intervention and support programs throughout all grade levels.

“Our youth are our future. They deserve our support and are well worth this investment,” the letter states.

SEAC thanked the school system and county for its recognition of the unique needs of students with disabilities and for fully funding programs that provide well-rounded, free and appropriate public education for the vulnerable population.

“Students with disabilities are important, valued and equal members of our community. They are capable of making a wide range of meaningful contributions to our community and society at large if empowered through a quality public education with the proper supports and services,” reads the letter.


For just $3.2 million…less than what the School Board approved for two spanking-new synthetic football fields at last Tuesday’s meeting…the special education department can be significantly improved. BoS, do the right thing for your constituents!

Ok so FDK costs $2M, mental health additions cost $3.85M, and 1.8% enrollment growth in a $1.113B budget costs $20M. Give the schools $26M more than last year. That is $62M below their grossly inflated request.

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