NJSBA testified at a hearing of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools held at the Atkinson Amphitheater, in the Carrier Clinic’s East Mountain School in Belle Mead on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Invited guests addressed the topic of mental health in public schools and early intervention program needs.  Speaking on behalf of the NJSBA were Irene LeFebvre, chair of NJSBA’s Special Education Committee, and Mike Vrancik, governmental relations director.

LeFebvre highlighted relevant recommendations of NJSBA’s Special Education Task Force report, including early intervention to identify students with learning needs at an early stage and strategies within the general education setting to address emotional and mental health issues.

Vrancik referenced recommendations in the School Security Task Force Report that focus on social and emotional development curriculum and school climate and culture initiatives that reduce the instance of bullying and have been shown to enhance student achievement.

Other speakers included staff from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, the National Association of Mental Illness, staff and members of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, as well as staff from the Carrier Clinic, who shared their experiences with student mental health issues.

Much of the testimony emphasized that priorities must be placed on identifying the resources to address mental health issues early on, in order to minimize later and more serious problems and to maximize the effectiveness of existing programs across the state.

State Senator and Joint Committee Chairman Ron Rice, Assemblywoman Donna Simon and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly were the committee members who heard the testimony.