Updated: November 20, 2020
For several months, the outbreak of COVID-19 throughout the United States has been causing physical, mental, and financial stress for students and families. With thousands of workers being laid off and children missing in-class instruction, families have been forced to confront unfamiliar and daunting challenges in the wake of the virus.
As state and national leaders fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, individuals have been pushed into isolation. While policies placed in response to COVID-19 are geared toward inhibiting the transmission of the disease, they can have detrimental effects on mental health and well-being. Policymakers must consider the effects that the current pandemic will have on the mental health and well-being of their constituencies, working to understand how to properly balance implementing safeguards against the virus while providing the right supports for students and families.
As schools closed their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19, organizations throughout the nation reached out to those directly affected by these closures, asking what kinds of support students and families need at this time. Among the most common responses, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, was a call for trauma-informed practices to support students in the short- and long-term. Among these practices is an implementation of systematic screening of school populations, which can include brief questionnaires about a student’s emotions and concerns.
In addition to the strain social distancing is placing on students as they transition to distance learning, it is also adding another layer of stress for parents as they juggle work, homeschooling, and parenting. To help ease the pressure on parents, best practices have been identified to help parents manage the difficult task of working from home while ensuring their children’s education continues.
State policymakers can take a number of steps to support both student and family well-being during the country’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Gather and Share Resources about Student and Family Well-Being
- State leaders can make resources available so that educators across the state can support students and families who may be struggling in the wake of the response to COVID-19.
- In Texas, a system of charter schools, known as Texans Can Academies, is providing a counseling service that students can use 24-7. Texans Can covers the costs of these services.
- Falls Church City Public Schools has created an online system to offer students wraparound services, including mental health services.
- Ensure that families of students with disabilities know how to ensure continuity of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
- For families with students with disabilities, it is important for them to remain in contact with local education agencies (LEAs) and service providers to ensure whatever requirements agreed upon in the student’s IEP are still met. The U.S. Department of Education provides guidance on this here. It is important to note that even though schools are closed, all students still have a right to a free and appropriate education, including those with special needs.
- Provide Mental Health Supports
- In November, the Florida Board of Governors’ Drug, Alcohol, and Mental Health Task Force convened to discuss student mental health. This task force is responsible for identifying the best practices to inform the development of recommendations for addressing critical issues affecting students. Through this group’s efforts, the following strategies have been develop strategies to combat the adverse effects of the pandemic on student mental health. One strategy is to implement a mental health literacy program called Kognito, which can help staff and faculty build their knowledge and skills relating to suicide prevention. A second approach, as stated by the Board, “would involve using metrics to monitor student mental health and drug and alcohol use across all 12 universities. To do this, the Council for Student Affairs identified specific metrics from the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment, which can assess and measure the initiative’s impact over time among students.”
← Click to access The Hunt Institute COVID-19 Resources & Policy Considerations Page