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State audit says most school districts don’t provide mental health training to staff

School staff need more mental health training.

That was the takeaway from an audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

The audit sampled 20 school districts, finding that most didn’t provide mental health training to all staff.

That’s a requirement by the state’s Education Department.

“Failure to recognize signs of mental health challenges in students can have devastating consequences,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “School personnel are often the first to notice if a student is having mental health challenges and they need effective training to help them understand the signs and symptoms early on. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences for students, staff, families and communities.”

Altogether, 90% of the districts the state’s auditors looked at did not offer mental health training.

One local school district was among the 20 sampled who did provide mental health training. The Canandaigua Central School District provided the correct mental health training for staff, according to the report.

“This is not a condemnation of the districts but more of a call to action to let them know that there are things they could be doing and should be doing in today’s world to give their staff the tools to deal with the crisis that we’re all seeing,” Deputy Comptroller Elliott Auerbach told News10NBC.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The audit took place between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

The SAVE Act was introduced to help improve school safety and it requires school districts to develop a comprehensive district-wide school safety plan (safety plan) that addresses crisis intervention, emergency responses and management. The safety plan developed by each district must include, among other things, policies and procedures for annual school safety training for staff and students.

Generally, district officials are required to provide the school safety training, including a component on mental health to all staff annually by September 15.

School districts must also certify to the SED Commissioner that all staff have undergone the school safety training, which must include a component on mental health1and the date the training was provided.

This global report details significant mental health training issues we identified.