Educators call for more mental health experts at Clovis Unified schools

Dozens of educators showed their support of school psychologists and mental health professionals unionizing.

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ByNic Garcia via KFSN logo
Thursday, August 18, 2022
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Clovis Unified held a public hearing to enter into an initial collective bargaining process with school psychologists and mental health professionals.

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Supporting student mental health went to the top of the agenda on Wednesday night at the Clovis Unified School board meeting.

The district held a public hearing to enter into an initial collective bargaining process with school psychologists and mental health professionals.

Kastner Intermediate made headlines last school year after video circulated online of a student getting bullied after school inside the Save Mart next door.

We spoke with the new psychologist for this campus - she says issues including bullying, anxiety, and depression are becoming more common, and they're seeing them in students as young as kindergartners.

The lineup of mental health professionals who spoke at Wednesday's Clovis Unified School Board meeting said the mental health crisis among students began long before the pandemic.

They're advocating for more school psychologists to alleviate the workload as part of their plea for a fair contract negotiation process.

"Classroom teachers are not mental health experts, it's not something we have the knowledge of or expertise to really manage so we're dependent on our colleagues with our mental health support because they have to do the work we are not trained to do," said Kristin Heimerdinger with Association of Clovis Educators.

Dozens of educators showed their support of school psychologists and mental health professionals unionizing and having a greater voice in student care.

"I have seen and heard the unimaginable, from breaking news to a senior that her boyfriend took his life the night before, which is a scream I will never forget," said school psychologist Trish Orr.

Clovis Unified says it has been prioritizing student mental health for the past five to seven years and it values the work mental health professionals do in the district.

"We are currently in negotiations with that group and out of respect for those negotiations, we cannot go into the lengthy list of things that have been done over the last 5 years to support students' mental health and those working in that field in our district," said spokesperson Kelly Avants.

The teachers and school psychologists say they'd like the district to prioritize mental health more as concerns for their students grow.

"Seeing it happen at earlier and earlier ages, we're seeing kids with depression... we're seeing kids with anxiety as early as kindergarten, we're seeing them come in with extreme cases of anxiety," said school psychologist Bernadette Rodarte.

This as Governor Gavin Newsom will be in Fresno County on Thursday to roll out new efforts to help support the mental health of kids in the state.