This article is part of a monthly roundup that outlines curriculum-related state education policy news.
While most state legislatures have adjourned, a few — including Michigan, Wisconsin and Massachussetes — remain in session and are continuing to pass policies affecting education. Those state legislatures that have adjourned did so only after cranking out laws affecting curricula.
Here's a list of some of the most notable legislation, listed by topic, along with the most recent updates:
With Virginia one of the first states to mandate mental health education in elementary, middle and high school curricula, an increasing number of states are now following suit.
- In Colorado, the “Youth Mental Health Education and Suicide Prevention Act” establishes, in collaboration with local suicide prevention organizations and youth groups, a resource bank that will house materials and curricula for a mental health education program that schools will adopt. “The resource bank and curricula must be youth-friendly, culturally sensitive, and available in both English and Spanish,” the act says.
The legislation requires materials be created with input from students. By July 2020, the state board is required to adopt mental health literacy standards for both elementary and secondary schools.
- Illinois recently amended an earlier health education law, the “Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act,” to include instruction on the link between physical and mental health. The legislation is set to go into effect in January.
- An act in Maine that was passed in May requires health education instruction in all schools to include instruction on mental health, including the relationship between physical and mental health.
- New Jersey’s legislation, which went into effect immediately after it was adopted, requires K-12 health curriculum to include instruction on mental health tailored according to age and comprehension level. It also requires instruction to include information on substance abuse when appropriate.
- Texas recently passed legislation requiring its health and nutrition curriculum to emphasize mental health and suicide prevention. Instruction on digital citizenship and the consequences of cyberbullying will also be included in the state's English language arts curriculum.
Sexual abuse/assault education
As part of Erin’s Law, many states have adopted sexual abuse prevention education in curricula. As of July 2019, a permutation of Erin’s Law has been passed in 37 states, with Illinois and Vermont two of the first to mandate child sexual abuse prevention.
States that adopt Erin’s Law require all public schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program that covers three areas:
- Educating students with age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and inform a trusted adult
- Educating school staff about child abuse
- Educating parents and guardians on the warning signs of child sexual abuse, along with providing resources for assistance and support for victims and their families.
Currently, Erin’s Law is pending in at least 13 other states, including Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
States that have recently adopted the measure include New York and New Jersey.
- New Jersey is requiring school districts to incorporate in its core curricula sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in grades pre-K through 12. Teachers can satisfy professional development requirements through participation in training programs on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention.
- New York is the most recent state to adopt Erin’s Law, which was introduced this past January and recently passed. It requires lesson plans to include age-appropriate curriculum and information on best practices in instruction to prevent child sexual exploitation and child abuse.
In line with a trend seen in previous months, districts continue to incorporate computer science courses in middle and high schools, and some high schools have even made a computer science course a requirement for graduation.
In addition to the states listed previously, Texas, Colorado and Arizona have incorporated computer science as an integral part of a STEM education.
House Bill 2984 in Texas requires the state board of education to adopt computer science instruction for grades K-12. “Essential knowledge and skills” including coding, computer programming, computational thinking and cybersecurity will be included in the new curriculum, which must take effect by December 2020.
A recent report by Code.org and the Computer Science Teachers’ Association says 33 out of 57 states have adopted computer science courses since 2018, and that five states — New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Montana and Wyoming — are currently developing standards.