Brooks clears up mental health opt-in questions for Shelby County Schools

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, August 11, 2022

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks sent out a letter on Thursday, Aug. 11 clarifying some questions regarding student and staff mental health with the school system.

Brooks began by expressing his gratitude for the people who have helped the school district navigate through the past few years then led into an opt-in form for mental health services that was sent out to parents that included school-based guidance and counseling based on a new legislative definition.

“During the last legislative session, Act 2022-442 was signed into law, mandating every school district in the state of Alabama to have a policy and a process for students under the age of 14 to opt-in to participate in mental health services,” Brooks’s letter said. “The legislation is confusing as it refers to ongoing school counseling services, including but not limited to mental health services.”

Brooks said SCS has both school counseling services as well as school-based mental health services provided by outside agencies. The two, according to the letter, are distinctly different.

SCS’s mental health program is licensed through Shelby Cares, and Brooks said it’s starting its fifth year of implementation. As part of the program, the district contracts with outside agencies to provide school-based mental health services.

Brooks then placed emphasis on the fact that no students are seen by a licensed therapist for mental health services without the consent of a parent.

Classroom guidance instruction/large group is also no an opt-in program, meaning parents have to give their permission for their child to take part in it.

“At the elementary level, school counselors conduct whole group lessons on topics such as being kind, getting along with others and learning about different careers,” Brooks said in the letter. “A middle school counseling session may be on bullying, problem solving or organizational skills. At the high school level, counseling sessions become more academic and career focused.”

Brooks said SCS is committed to working with parents to create the best opportunities for all students.