Educational Staff Associate
The Education Staff Associate (ESA) Behavioral Health Coalition is a grassroots advocacy group with members representing the Washington State Association of School Psychologists (WSASP), the Washington School Counselors Association (WSCA), the Washington Association of School Social Workers (WASSW), and the School Nurse Organization of Washington (SNOW). We originally created documents in 2016 as an easy reference about how our professions each provide direct and indirect mental and behavioral services to students as school-based mental health professionals. After five years our group agreed to revise these documents to better reflect our current best practices.
These documents, which are titled the ESA Behavioral Health Professionals' Roles Specific to Social and Emotional Health and Wellness are based on the best practice models from each of our national organizations, and refer to the education provided in nationally-approved training programs for each profession. This is not to imply that all professionals in these roles are providing all of these services, nor is this to be seen as an exhaustive list of all services these professionals may provide. All four professions promote the use of evidence based practices and interventions, and this is to be implied in the information provided below. These documents specifically address the social and emotional health and wellness of our students, which is only one domain of service each profession provides.
It should be noted that many of our colleagues in Washington state are staffed at a ratio incompatible with the provision of comprehensive services. It is the intention of the ESA Behavioral Health Coalition to raise awareness of the scope of training of these professionals and to advocate for more collaborative services models allowing all four professionals to work together in serving Washington’s youth. All four of our professions advocate for collaboration with one another and other professionals within a Multi Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to provide an Interconnected System Framework (ISF), and all four professions are qualified and trained to participate on MTSS teams as well as to provide data, expertise, and recommendation for universal supports. We also recognize that special education services happen throughout all three tiers and are not tied to a specific tier, and so special education or IEP related services are not referenced in the MTSS aligned tiered document.
In working on the revisions to this document in 2021, the ESA Behavioral Health Coalition agreed that equity and social justice needed to be more visible in this document. All four professions agree that equity and social justice drive each interaction we have with students, families, and the community. Each of our professional organizations have positions or statements regarding the responsibilities of these professionals in the work of equity and social justice. The ESA Behavioral Health Coalition stands in solidarity with these statements. We believe that systematic racism must be eliminated from the United States and this elimination can begin with school systems, school staff, families, and children. Racism, a public health crisis, threatens the health, educational attainment, and well-being of children and adolescents. School systems hold a profound formative influence in the lives of students. Where racism exists, students of color experience adverse impacts on their health, well-being, and learning. Schools must be systems within communities where antiracism is the default culture and climate (NASN). We have an ethical responsibility to engage in social justice and anti-racism action (NASP). We believe that all students have the right to an accessible and high-quality education within an equitable, safe, supportive, and healthy learning environment (WSCA). We advocate for the equitable treatment of all students in school and in the community (ASCA). We are well positioned to be transformational leaders in promoting equity, inclusivity and supportive school environments. Guiding efforts to heal our communities is fundamental to our practice not only through the direct services provided, but also through advocacy efforts (SSWAA).
Collaboratively working together as school based mental health professionals* who are school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses, to advocate, encourage and promote the mental and behavioral health of the whole child.
Washington schools will have a robust, interconnected, collaborative system of support to meet the mental and behavioral needs of the whole child provided by school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses to empower students to access their education and prepare for post secondary goals.