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Advocacy Action Center 2016 Updates

Bills from 2016 session: UPDATES 

1. House Bill 2037

Bill Digest: Requires school districts to require a student who was expelled, suspended, or removed from school due to reasons relating to violence or mental health issues to be assessed by an independent, private, third-party mental health professional before the student is readmitted into school.

Status: Was not heard in the committee, has been retained at current status. Translation, there will be no further action on this bill in the 2016 session. WSASP will continue to monitor, however.

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP has strong reservations in asking schools to pay for independent evaluations when many schools employ staff who are qualified to provide such assessments. We also are concerned that this bill undermines the skills and quality of services those staff are able to exercise in the schools by implying they are not able to provide such assessments. There was also a concern about access to such third party evaluators in all areas of the state, such as rural Eastern Washington. There is a direct and negative impact on students, both general education and special education, by the presumption that an independent evaluation is required that will cost the school unknown amounts of money and likely delay the student’s return to school. This bill also does not acknowledge a change in procedure for students already receiving mental health services.

2. House Bill 2381

Bill Digest: Creates the legislative task force on school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to review: (1) The projected need of school districts for each category of educational staff associate;(2) The current capacity of the state for meeting this need;(3) Alternative routes for educational staff associate certification; and (4) Social work, psychologist, and counselor preparation programs. Expires July 1, 2017.

Status: Passed House and is now in the Senate Education committee. Translation, this bill is still “alive” for the 2016 session.

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP is in support of this bill. We are in a very real shortage crisis in public education, but school psychologists have been in shortage for several years now. We all feel it with unfilled positions. We suggest that the bill be adjusted to include representative from each profession’s university training program as opposed to one representative for each, as these programs are all distinctly different.

3. House Bill 1862

Bill Digest: Requires first-class school districts, on a monthly basis throughout each school year, to provide a minimum of one hour of professional development for school counselors, social workers, and psychologists that focuses on recognizing signs of emotional or behavioral distress in students, including indicators of possible substance abuse, violence, and youth suicide, screening, and making appropriate referrals

Status: Was not heard in the committee, has been retained at current status. Translation, there will be no further action on this bill in the 2016 session. WSASP will continue to monitor, however.

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP is in support of this bill as it supports our national and state recommendations for ongoing professional development. There is a need for clarification on what is meant by referrals, ie, special education referrals to problem solving team referrals, outside provider referrals, etc. In addition to this there should be clarification that training and interventions should be evidence based. It should also be clarified that this will be formal training with clock hours to support re-certification.

4. House Bill 2373

Bill Digest: Requires each educational service district to develop and maintain the capacity to serve as a convener, trainer, and mentor for educators, administrators, and other school district staff on social and emotional learning. Requires the joint legislative audit and review committee to conduct an inventory of the mental health service models available to students through schools, school districts, and educational service districts.

Status: Passed House Education Committee, referred to Appropriations. Translation, this bill is still “alive” for the 2016 session.

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP is in support of this bill, and we were able to give testimony in support of the bill at the public hearing. We find that this is a necessary step for the execution of the work that is being done by the Social and Emotional Learning Benchmark group at OSPI that we were in support of in the 2015 session. Having SEL benchmarks and no training to support school based staff in rolling out those standards is not functional; this bill meets that need. It is also noted that if this bill is delayed in passing it will functionally delay the roll out of the SEL benchmarks by at least another year. Concerns for the bill include the interchangeable use of mental health and social emotional learning, we suggested these terms be defined. For example, mental health can refer to a spectrum of health and wellness to illness, or can be used as a euphemism for mental illness. The committee was interested in working with the association to further define these terms.

5. Senate Bill 6243

Bill Digest: Requires the educational service districts to work with Forefront at the University of Washington to develop a two-day youth suicide prevention training program for middle and high school administrators, teachers, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and parents or guardians.  It is noted that this needs to be evidence based training.  The bill also specified that ESD's can either train their own staff or have staff from the Forefront program provide the training.

Status: Passed the Senate house and the House Education committee, and was referred to appropriations. Translation, this bill is still “alive” for this session, and is moving quickly!

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP is in support of the concept of this bill, and appreciated in particular the inclusion of teachers, administrators, and parents or guardians. We also appreciate that the program is to be evidence based.  However, there are concerns for the specificity of the university program developing the training.  A brief search did indicate that this is an institute specifically focused on suicide prevention.

6. Senate Bill 5526

Bill Digest: Requires each school district to: (1) Adopt or amend a transgender student policy and procedure that at a minimum incorporates the model transgender student policy and procedure created by the state school directors' association and share the policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees; and (2) Designate one person in the district as the primary contact regarding the transgender student policy. Requires the office of the superintendent of public instruction to develop a statewide training class for those people who act as the primary contact.

Status: Having been sent to the Rules Committee earlier, this bill has been returned to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee for further review. Translation, this bill will likely have no further action taken on it this session. WSASP will continue to monitor, however.

WSASP Recommendation: WSASP is in support of this bill. Expanding Bullying policies and district procedures to specifically include the transgender population is a necessary step in our schools to ensure a safe environment for all students.

Washington State Association of School Psychologists
816 W. Francis Ave #214
Spokane, WA 99205

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