Schools should prioritize student well-being above performance

Tom Tom Staff Editorial

In a 2019 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there are 6 million children in the U.S. with SROs (School Resource Officers), but no school psychologist. While having an officer on campus is beneficial for many reasons, district and school leaders should place higher efforts in prioritizing the wellbeing of their students.

According to the National Education Association, 15% of teens experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Sixty percent of depressed teens did not receive treatment in the past year.

Students from low income households are hit the hardest. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, low income adults can be up to twice as likely to have mental illness compared to those with higher income. Fifteen percent of students in low income communities do not receive proper treatment.

Parents are often aware of their children’s conditions as well. In the same article, statistics showed that 73% of parents say their children could benefit from mental health counseling, 19% say their children have symptoms of anxiety, and 12% report their children exhibiting symptoms of depression.

Schools can normalize being mentally well by incorporating daily journaling, and intermittent progress checks – anything to make their health more involved in the classroom.

In a study conducted by Yale, it was found that nearly 3 quarters of high school students report negative feelings toward school. An option to alleviate this, provided by, is developing evidence-based programs to provide a positive school climate and promote student skills in dealing with bullying and conflicts, solving problems, and developing healthy peer relationships.

In 2019, the superintendent of an Arizona public institution, Kathy Hoffman, announced the allocation of $21 million to hiring 140 school counselors or social workers for 2 years. While this does help, this solution is impermanent.

Last October, the Biden administration provided a resource recommended to the U.S. school system on the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in education. The resource covers details on how students relate to others, how they feel, and how they act while explaining their impact on well-being. 

The proposal continues by listing the recommendations, including prioritizing wellness in light of rising mental health needs and disparities among children and student groups. Also, enhancing mental health literacy and reducing stigma and other barriers to access can be effective, as well as implementing a continuum of evidence-based prevention practices to replace ineffective ones, and establishing an integrated framework of educational, social, emotional, and behavioral health support for all to combat fragmented delivery systems. 

Brittany Becker, LMHC & Director at The Dorm, a treatment community for young adults in NYC and D.C lists the impacts of these changes, if implemented. 

“SEL skills-based learning and programs are associated with better attitudes about self, school, and others, decreased alcohol and drug use, violence, truancy, bullying, impulsivity and conduct problems, and heightened college retention, physical health, stress management, self-esteem, emotion regulation, decision making, and empathy,”  Becker said.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota House voted to deliver $3.3 billion in investments to students and schools. This money was used to support students and their families. Within these funds, $445 million will go to the well-being of the students. Some of which will be used to provide around 1,100 student support personnel for greater access to counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses.

The evidence is clear. The care of students’ well-being provided by their schools is lacking. With an implementation of the previously listed items, students will achieve better relationships, decrease problem behaviors, and set students up for long term success.

We as a staff believe that a student’s well-being should be held at a higher priority than it is currently. This can be done by providing easy access to professionals, fostering good teacher-student relationships,  and promoting social and emotional competency.