On January 20, the Pre-K-12 Subcommittee of the House Education Committee met and considered several pieces of mental health training legislation, which as originally written, could have imposed onerous training requirements on public school staff and resulted in additional unfunded mandates.
To varying degrees in their original forms, HB 74 (Kory), HB 716 (Reid), and HB 1554 (Samirah) would have required school boards to adopt and implement policies that all teachers and relevant personnel complete Mental Health First Aid training on a regular basis. Though well intentioned, these bills would likely result in additional unfunded mandates imposed upon school divisions and localities. Many mental health training programs currently available involve staff dedicating multiple hours and in some case, up to a day to complete. Taken in aggregate, that is valuable staff time that would need to be covered by other employees during training and financed.
Members of the education community and VACo reached out to the patrons to express concerns and were pleased that the patrons voluntarily amended their bills to make them less burdensome while still addressing the serious needs of raising mental health awareness.
HB 716 and HB 1554 were incorporated in HB 74, which was amended in the form of a substitute to allow local school boards to determine which employees need additional training, require the Virginia Department of Education to provide such training, and make it available to local school divisions online. The subcommittee recommended reporting with the substitute 7-1.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett