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Hillsborough School Board Discusses Child Trauma/Mental Health Issues

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Hillsborough County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss multiple topics including student trauma and mental health issues and possibly focusing tax dollars toward these issues.

In a board workshop Tuesday morning Hillsborough County School Board members discussed the district's needs regarding new policy proposals and current policies present in their schools. "Anytime that we feel that there's a necessity, it will be very carefully thought out," said Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent.

"You know, the importance of volunteers in our school has always been part of the infrastructure. I don't know what I would do without volunteers to help with reading, with math. The biggest complaint our principals have is all the barriers of getting volunteers to be in the schools," said Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County School Board

The board discussed what they thought would be necessary over the next five years from funding materials needed for classrooms and volunteers needed in schools.

"These are items we may need to use whether we're buying a couple of LCD projectors for a particular school, art supplies or a line of investigation science supplies," said Superintendent Davis.

"When we involve the expenditure of funds, which again, public funds are definitely our tax payers, I definitely like the fact that… no greater than fifty thousand. If we don't start limiting the amount and checking it, we can get lost in a lot of money spent," said board member Lynn Gray.

The board also began the conversation around a policy geared toward students dealing with trauma and mental health issues. "We have to get to a place where we're not putting children in marked or unmarked cars and taking them away to facilities and that does happen," said board member, Cindy Stuart.

Stuart spearheaded that conversation by introducing her teams ideas on developing a mobile crisis team for those students. "A lot of what happens is kids get pulled into an office, they say something that they may or may not intend to do. Law enforcement then reexamines the child, moves the child to a crisis center type situation. The child is then released to either a parent or guardian. So the whole process is traumatizing for a kid and the child is not getting the resource they need to move forward."

She says she's seen a disparity in the number of kids that are getting transported to facilities versus the actual number of cases that move forward.

"We do have the highest number of Baker Acts in the state and that's unfortunate. I don't care how you slice the numbers," said Stuart. The University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center provides numbers to the public from 2015 to 2018 which can be found here.

Shifting topics, the board also brought forward the potential for policies regarding the requirement of face coverings across the district.

"I thought that, in case we ever had this issue again, God forbid, that we would have something in place," said board member Karen Perez. They, however  scratched the idea due to it already existing in the emergency order.

"In the same spirit, if this is already redundant language, then I'm not sure why we're bringing it forward. We don't need to be spending additional dollars to sit here and discuss and advertise and bring it back for a second hearing if this I already covered," said Stuart.

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