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New survey spotlights parents’ mindsets in 2022-2023 school year

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) More than half of parents in Colorado and across the nation continue to be concerned about children's mental health, according to the latest survey conducted by the National Parent Teacher Association. 

Staci Ruddy, president of the Colorado PTA, said many schools in the state are connecting family members, teachers and other school staff with Mental Health First Aid training, and added schools have recognized when kids want to open up, it is not always with a teacher or a parent.

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"It could be their favorite bus driver, or their favorite custodian, or their favorite person that works in their cafeteria. And so providing these trainings broadly to lots of different people who are involved in the lives of the kids is really important," Ruddy said. 

Nearly nine in ten parents support schools providing emotional and mental-health support, including in-school counselors or psychologists, and referrals to external providers. But just 37 percent said they knew how to find help at their kid's school. The survey also found that parents strongly support schools teaching content on race by the fifth grade.

The poll saw a spike in the number of parents concerned about violence at school, including bullying. Hispanic parents are significantly more worried than Black and white parents. Ruddy said 75 percent of parents believe schools are an important place for kids to learn and practice their social and emotional ABCs - cooperation, empathy, perseverance and respect.

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"We see these skills as helping decrease bullying and violence. And like anything else that we learn, when it's reinforced both at school and at home, it's more likely to become ingrained in that child and in their behavior," she said. 

Ruddy added surveys such as this are an important way to put a spotlight on parents' concerns, highlight what schools are getting right, and they also offer tools for parents and schools to work together to help all kids thrive.

"Parents need to know they have a right to be involved in what happens within the school, and they should be engaged," she said. "And schools need to know that when they engage the families, the outcome is much better, and years and years of research has shown that."