Mental health initiatives in Texas schools : a collective case study exploring educators’ experiences in a north Texas school district.
On May 18, 2018, ten individuals died in a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas as a result Texas lawmakers began writing state legislation to address Texas students’ mental health needs. In June 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state mental health initiatives, Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 18, into effect mandating that Texas school districts implement new curriculum, policies, and procedures focusing on students’ mental health. As the new laws took effect, teachers became the frontline of defense for addressing students’ mental health needs. With the implementation of the new mental health initiatives and little guidance from state lawmakers, schools incorporated a mental health curriculum to address students’ mental health. Educators began teaching students about mental health in addition to academic content, such as reading, writing, and mathematics. This collective case study utilized the School Mental Health Theoretical Framework to explore and describe the experiences, feelings, and perceptions of four middle school teachers regarding Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 18 and the implementation of a mental health curriculum in their school. The school mental health theoretical framework provided a guide to schools or districts implementing school mental health programs. The framework addresses both students’ and teachers’ needs. This study considered the three framework domains: promoting social-emotional learning, promoting resilience, and preventing behavioral or emotional problems (Cavioni et al., 2020). Four middle school teachers from a north Texas school district participated in the study. Data collection occurred using questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and curriculum documents. Using comparative cross-case analysis, the study uncovered common themes among the participants’ perceptions and experiences. Study findings revealed that although each educator described their individual, unique experiences, four common themes emerged across cases. The four themes included: (a) a need to address teacher mental health, (b) a need for more specialized mental health training for educators, (c) a need for more mental health resources for students, and (d) a need to build strong teacher-student relationships. The information obtained assists schools in implementing policies and procedures concerning state mental health initiatives.