Mental issues require training

Published 9:19 am Friday, July 12, 2013

One of the hallmarks of an “emotionally or behaviorally disordered,” or EBD, student is he or she is cognitively capable but the emotional or behavioral issues interfere with their ability to learn.

Nationally, less than half of students educationally labeled “emotionally or behaviorally disordered” graduate from high school. Many, not all, of the EBD students struggle with some type of mental health disorder. Due to the structure and cost of our health care system the majority do not receive adequate treatment. This leaves school faced with the enormous challenge of educating a population of students who are bright but struggle academically.

As a recent Star Tribune editorial highlights, there is a significant lack of licensed EBD teachers in Minnesota which causes school districts to ask for license variance in order to have a teacher in the classroom. Without a doubt this is problematic but it is also of concern the lack of mental health training all teachers receive.

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Every five years a teacher has to renew their teaching license by demonstrating they have met the 125 hour requirement of continuing education. Of the 125 hours, only two hours are required for mental health training. Most EBD kids go into mainstream classrooms for some subject areas such as science, art or social studies. This leaves all teachers inadequately equipped to effectively manage some of the mental health and behavioral issues students carry with them as they enter the classroom. Increasingly, the demands of being an effective teacher require one to be able to understand and read the behavior of a student.

Tragically, teachers are ill equipped to do so due to the lack of a mental health component in teacher training programs and the requirements for relicensure through the Minnesota Department of Education. One manner in which to help all teachers become more skilled at fostering student achievement is by building in a strong mental health component. This lack of training is unfair to teachers and to the students they teach.


Jenni Braaten
social worker
Albert Lea High School