St. Paul Federation Of Educators Focuses On Student Mental Health In Contract Negotiations, Shares Stories About Its Toll On Our Community

By Chris Williams

 

 

 

St. Paul educators are sharing their perspectives on the growing mental health crisis among Minnesota’s students, which was documented with the release of the Minnesota Student Survey results.

The survey said students were more likely to report mental health issues than they were in 2016. According to the new data, 35% of 11th grader females reported having long-term mental health, emotional or behavioral problems. That’s up from 27% in 2016, and 16% in 2013.

St. Paul educators understand that unmet needs for mental health services is a barrier to any students’ learning. That is why increasing mental health supports in St. Paul Public Schools is a top priority for the St. Paul Federation of Educators as they bargain a new contract with the district.

“I’ve had students in the past who were really bright and really motivated, but just had some really significant hardships in their lives that ended up completely derailing them,” said Ursula Becker, a high school English teacher in SPPS. “I have kids that, I see them in ninth grade. I see them deteriorate over the course of the year. I see them a little bit in 10th grade, and by 11th and 12th grade they’re gone.”

Becker, along with other St. Paul educators, parents and mental health professionals, share their stories about the severity of the mental health crisis in our schools and communities on a new website, www.supportstpaulstudents.org. The website, launched by SPFE, highlights how mental illness is not only a barrier to success for individual students, it can affect their classmates, their teacher and other professionals in the building.

“Our students deserve to attend public schools where all of their unique needs are met, and that includes providing our students with adequate access to mental health support right in their building,” said St. Paul Federation of Educators President Nick Faber. “We hear stories about the toll untreated mental illness is taking in our classrooms every day from our members, and the Minnesota Student Survey only confirms our belief – the district can’t wait any longer to take real action to address this crisis.”