State Board of Education approves controversial mental health coordinator law

The Alabama State Board of Education (BOE) has approved the implementation of an Alabama law that requires mental health coordinators in every school system in the state.

In May, the legislature passed House Bill 123 (HB123), which was signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey. The bill, sponsored by Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), allowed the state to have mental health counseling and services in all public schools across the country. ‘Alabama.

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) introduced a parent opt-in amendment, which allows parents to give permission before their child attends programs or sees a counselor.

The BOE approved the legislation.

Dr. Nathaniel Birdsong, president of the Alabama School Counselor Association, spoke in favor of the rule.

Birdsong said the new code clarified the distinction between mental health services offered to students through licensed mental health coordinators and school counseling and programs offered at various schools.

Marlo Young, the Escambia County mental health coordinator, spoke out in favor of the rule, saying mental health services significantly reduce bullying and peer pressure.

“The position of Mental Health Services Coordinator has been a great addition to the local school system, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work in this capacity,” said Young.

“[W]We work alongside our school counselors and support our students in a variety of ways, such as character education, social and emotional learning, and that community bond that connects students and parents to these grade level resources and services. 3. »

Although no one spoke out against mental health services at the BOE meeting, some expressed concern about the opt-in option of the new law.

Concerns about the bill relate to a longer-standing state law.

Section 22-8-4 of the Alabama legal code allows a person 14 years of age or older to make their own medical decisions in the state of Alabama. This means that children over the age of 14 in Alabama schools can participate in mental health programs or see a counselor without parental consent.

Givhan’s opt-in amendment did not include an opt-out, meaning children over 14 would automatically be enrolled in mental health programs.

See also: ‘Bad things happen behind closed doors all the time between kids and adults’ – Worried parents speak to school mental health counselors

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