New Framework Addresses Student Mental Health at School District Level

The national School Superintendents Association and The Jed Foundation launched a campaign to provide a school district level framework to support student mental health.

The District Comprehensive Approach, launched by the national School Superintendents Association (AASA) and the Jed Foundation (a mental health organization), aims to provide school districts across the country with a framework of “best practices, expert support and data-driven guidance about how to best support students’ mental health and prevent suicide.”

The framework is still under development, but will be an expansion of a framework JED has created for high schools, adapted to apply to school districts as a whole and for all grade levels. The two national organizations combined forces to develop the guidance after students returned to classrooms post-COVID-19 pandemic struggling with mental health and behavioral issues.

Speaking to EdWeek, the two organizations expressed enthusiasm for the new program.

Jed Foundation Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Benghiat explained the approach to the framework:

What we’re really trying to do is take an approach that doesn’t really require system leaders to have any clinical training, just an understanding of what the factors are that might impact a student’s mental health, and then providing support to implement policies and procedures that are supportive of mental health.

AASA Executive Director David Schuler emphasized the desired impact of the initiative:

By addressing mental health disparities in our school communities, we can help change the lives of countless students and, as a result, improve the future of our country’s public education system—and our entire nation.

Building off of the high school model

Jed Foundation’s guidance for high schools focuses on seven themes :

  • Developing life skills
  • Promoting social connectedness
  • Encouraging help-seeking behaviors
  • Improving recognition of signs of distress
  • Access to mental health care
  • Establishing crisis management procedures
  • Promoting the importance of keeping lethal and dangerous items away from children

According to EdWeek, the high school framework also follows a tiered model through which high schools implement strategies and activities “aimed at all students to foster a positive climate where students feel more connected and comfortable in seeking help, in addition to more targeted interventions for students experiencing mental health crises or other serious problems.”

The District Comprehensive Approach

Once The District Comprehensive Approach is finalized, the Jed Foundation will work with selected school districts to assess their specific needs and adapt the framework to address them. This will be achieved through a survey of school district staff and community members to understand the current situation and needs of the district, what has or is working, and what might need to be adjusted.

District-level work will be over roughly three years to develop and implement the district-specific plan. After that period, a similar survey will be conducted to evaluate the success of the framework and its implementation.

Getting involved

The District Comprehensive Approach initiative will start in fall 2023 and will initially work with approximately 15 districts, with the intention of adding more districts either annually or twice per year.

Counties interested in being part of the cohort can reach out to the Jed Foundation, but should know that there are already several districts on a waiting list for later cohorts.

Read the EdWeek article on the new framework.

Learn more about the Jed Foundation’s high school guidance.