Legislative Updates

SB 0341/HB 0720 – Signed by Gov. Haslam on 3/24/17

Public Chapter 18 – Effective July 1, 2017

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel – As enacted, authorizes a school counselor to refer or help facilitate a referral of a parent or legal guardian’s student to a counselor or therapist for mental health assessments or services. – Amends TCA Title 4; Title 49 and Title 63.

Our own Tracy Cagle, retired Knox County School Counselor, brought this bill to life after years of feeling helpless to refer students and families to mental health providers. Tracy worked with Senator Frank Niceley (R-Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union Counties), Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-part of Shelby Co.) and our TCA Lobbyist, Chris Ford, to craft bi-partisan legislation that allows for proper referrals to mental health services without disrupting educational and other services in place in schools. Licensed School Counselors are now empowered to make ethical referrals (see below) for students and their families to receive additional mental health supports.

The 2016 Ethical Standards for School Counselors 

A.6. Appropriate Referrals and Advocacy

School counselors:

a. Collaborate with all relevant stakeholders, including students, educators and parents/guardians when student assistance is needed, including the identification of early warning signs of student distress.

b. Provide a list of resources for outside agencies and resources in their community to student(s) and parents/guardians when students need or request additional support. School counselors provide multiple referral options or the district’s vetted list and are careful not to indicate an endorsement or preference for one counselor or practice. School counselors encourage parents to interview outside professionals to make a personal decision regarding the best source of assistance for their student.

c. Connect students with services provided through the local school district and community agencies and remain aware of state laws and local district policies related to students with special needs, including limits to confidentiality and notification to authorities as appropriate.

d. Develop a plan for the transitioning of primary counseling services with minimal interruption of services. Students retain the right for the referred services to be done in coordination with the school counselor or to discontinue counseling services with the school counselor while maintaining an appropriate relationship that may include providing other school support services.

e. Refrain from referring students based solely on the school counselor’s personal beliefs or values rooted in one’s religion, culture, ethnicity or personal worldview. School counselors maintain the highest respect for student diversity. School counselors should pursue additional training and supervision in areas where they are at risk of imposing their values on students, especially when the school counselor’s values are discriminatory in nature. School counselors do not impose their values on students and/or families when making referrals to outside resources for student and/or family support.

f. Attempt to establish a collaborative relationship with outside service providers to best serve students. Request a release of information signed by the student and/or parents/guardians before attempting to collaborate with the student’s external provider.

g. Provide internal and external service providers with accurate, objective, meaningful data necessary to adequately evaluate, counsel and assist the student.

h. Ensure there is not a conflict of interest in providing referral resources. School counselors do not refer or accept a referral to counsel a student from their school if they also work in a private counseling practice.

SB 0771/HB 0888 – Update: 3/22/17
After being deferred in the House Education & Administration Planning Subcommittee, the “bathroom bill” was brought back up in the Senate Education Committee. When the bill was brought up, no other committee member would second it, killing the bill on the spot. If your legislator is on the Senate Education Committee, call and thank him or her for the great insight.

Sen. Beavers and Rep. Pody have filed the “Bathroom Bill”

“Students – As introduced, requires students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to persons of the same sex as that shown on the students’ birth certificates.” – Amends TCA Title 49.

TSCA will work closely with TCA and our TCA Lobbyist to bring you updates.

Please click below to read the ASCA position statement on this topic:

“The School Counselor and Transgender/Gender-nonconforming Youth”


Update: 3/29/17 

SB 4 has been assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee and the complimentary HB 357 has been taken off notice. Sen. Dolores Gresham is interested in looking at research on SEL and developing a more supportive bill to LEA’s in the state.

The proposed bill:

As introduced, prohibits the state board of education from adopting standards or competencies for social and emotional learning; prohibits the department of education from providing instruction or competencies in social and emotional learning to fulfill the requirements for character education. – Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 1, Part 2; Title 49, Chapter 1, Part 3 and Section 49-6-1007. 

Contact your Legislators!

Phone calls have a greater impact on legislators.

  • Begin the conversation with “I oppose SB 4/HB 357”. Then follow up with any of the talking points listed below.
  • Legislators need to hear that educators and families want and need social and emotional learning supports so that students will have the skills they need to succeed in the future – including communication skills, decision making skills, and goal setting skills.
  • Schools are the ideal place for them to be taught/reinforced in collaboration with parents/caregivers and the community.
  • If you choose email and your Legislator responds with a form email or lack of support for your views, make sure you reply to let them know you have not changed your mind and you still oppose these bills.

Call Today!

Senate Education Committee Members – click here

House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee – click here

Find your Legislator

What are SB0004/HB0357 really about?

Educational research shows that for students to succeed in the future, they need to be equipped not only with academic skills, but also personal and social competencies that allow them to take initiative, persist, communicate effectively, and make good decisions. If a physician turned away from the latest research and determined treatment for their patient based on what the state deemed appropriate, we would call that malpractice.(credit: Dr. Justin Tarte https://twitter.com/justintarte/status/814130080976805888)

The skills we’re talking about are critical for student success.  Why would the state want to prohibit the DoE from supporting LEAs that might elect, because of their own local priorities, to work on them? The state department should be available to support any LEA that chose do so, but this bill would prohibit that. No one is trying to create mandatory standards, but shouldn’t LEAs expect to have support from the state when they want to support all of the competencies business leaders tell us students will need to succeed in the future?

Let’s change the conversation…

Instead of referring to SEL “standards”, we need to focus on explaining what the specific skills are that fall under the umbrella of SEL.

Executive Function and Self-Regulation Skills

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Attending/focusing skills
  • Listening skills
  • Cooperation
  • Coping skills
  • Responsibility

The Research…

Research shows that schools that focus on academic skills as well as the executive function skills mentioned above, report improvements on everything from student behavior to academic performance.

  • Meta-analysis in 2011 of 213 studies and 270,000 students K-12 showed 11% academic gains, reduced behavior problems, more engaged, motivated students.
  • 11:1 return on investment, in terms of benefits to cost analyses from research.

“Soft” skills are critical for success in school and the workplace.

  • Youth surveys reveal high rates of teen stress, disengagement, and low achievement.
  • Teachers want support to teach these “soft” skills, 93% in the Missing Piece
  • Recent studies (e.g., Deming, 2015, RWJF, 2015) show importance of social skills development (from kindergarten) in predicting adult outcomes, including employment and health.

The most recent TN specific data regarding ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) shows that 1 in 4 Tennesseans have 4 or more ACEs.

  • ACEs have been linked to:
    • risky health behaviors,
    • chronic health conditions,
    • low life potential, and
    • early death.
  • ACEs have also been linked to economic impacts – the greatest of which are productivity loss. (source: CDC)
  • Social-emotional learning and supports in schools help to mitigate the effects of ACEs.

Parents value these skills.

  • Bring in any data you have from your school’s needs assessment i.e. In one elementary school in West TN, the most requested Parent/Caregiver Info Session was “Supporting your Child’s Social and Emotional Development” (45.9%).

Employers value these skills and behaviors above all—

  • from Wall Street Journal August 30, 2016: “A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58% say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their company’s productivity. In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.” Business leaders say they can train employees how to run job-based equipment, but they can’t teach them how to make good decisions. They need schools to educate students so that they know how to collaborate, problem solve, and make good decisions.

FAQ – (common concerns about SEL in Schools)

Q: Why is the state taking over the role of the family and trying to teach students how to feel?

A: TN (or LEA) is committed to helping reinforce and build upon what is taught at home. Focusing on the social and emotional needs of students can help them to identify what they are feeling so that they can begin to effectively manage those feelings in constructive ways. Then, instead of fighting, for example, they’re working in teams; instead of missing a day of work due to stress, they show up and are productive. Extensive research shows that students with these “soft skills” do better in school, at work, and in life.

Q: Why are we signing on to another set of national standards and tests?

A: TN is not signing on to any set of national standards nor tests. We want to learn and discover what is best for our students, families, and teachers. Part of that work is articulating student goals for social and emotional development (e.g., students will know how to focus their attention, how to set and achieve goals, and how to communicate effectively). Extensive research shows that students with these “soft skills” do better in school, at work, and in life

Q: Isn’t this just giving educators one more thing to do?

A: Educators are already doing this work. Many are looking for the resources and support to do it effectively. The goal of SEL work at the state level is to provide educators with these resources to aid in their efforts to teach students how to problem solve, work well in teams and become better critical thinkers. These are personal and professional qualities that are critical to college/career readiness and employability.

Q: Shouldn’t LEA’s be able to determine goals for their own students?

A: It is our understanding that SEL work at the state level is focused on discovering what is best for our TN students, families and educators. Part of that work is articulating student goals for success with input from leaders in workforce development and education. These “soft” skills are important for the development of a strong TN workforce. When the state DOE validates and provides guidance on how to implement effective programming (In this case, SEL), LEA’s are empowered to provide training and support to their teachers.