Under a new Virginia law signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, schools are now required to include instruction on mental health for students in 9th and 10th grade, according to The Washington Post.
The state board of education will determine the details of how to implement the law, but the measure requires the state to collaborate with mental health professionals and update state standards.
- The law was prompted by the work of students from Albemarle County, VA, who saw the impact of stress on their peers and wanted to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health services. The teens worked with lawmakers to draft the bill.
The students’ involvement in bringing the issue to the attention of policymakers is another example of how students are demonstrating their ability to take on complex issues and seek solutions that may have not occurred to those in leadership positions. From organizing nationwide student protests to addressing issues closer to home in their own schools, students are exercising their First Amendment rights and learning how to take action on issues that matter to them.
As school leaders look for ways to encourage student voice, they also want to create a process through which students can propose the changes they’d like to see. The organization Student Voice has created a resource sheet for "adult allies.” The document provides links to information that explains the increase in students organizing and desiring to work as partners with school and community leaders. Links to tools for how to assess the current state of student voice in a school or district are also included.
“We have witnessed the power of students and know that this is more than a moment in the spotlight,” Merrit Jones, the executive director of Student Voice wrote in a recent blog post. “It is part of a larger movement of young people calling for systematic change in American schools.”