The Nevada Department of Education, Office of Safe and Respectful Learning Environment (NDE OSRLE), established the Governor’s Social Workers in Schools Initiative with the focus of creating safe schools through prevention programming as well as a system of multi-tiered interventions for students. Providing a social worker in the schools has enhanced the strategy to create safer schools. In order to determine the schools in most need of social workers, the NDE OSRLE developed a statewide “School Climate Survey” based on the national survey from the National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE), and implemented the survey in all of Nevada’s schools (began 2014-2015). Survey data is used to support the placement of safe school professionals in the identified schools. The goal of the legislation was to create a social worker ratio of 1/250 students. Nevada has been successful in placing 227 safe school professionals in 166 schools across the state, with a current ratio of 1/627 students (2017).
The Nevada School Climate and Mental Health initiatives have significantly increased professional development training that supports the creation of safe and violence-free schools. These cross training efforts have created a strong cross agency/organization workforce supporting a variety of prevention and intervention activities for students in schools. Some of the results of this collaborative work has been as follows:
- All three counties have created community health service centers for children, youth and families: Lyon County has the community “Health Hub” model, Nye County collaborative supports the community service center model; and Washoe County has a non-profit youth and family service model entitled “The Children’s Cabinet”;
- Training for professional staff: 9,617 trained professionals (mental health, behavioral health, school administrators, teachers), and students to support student social, emotional, and behavioral well-being;
- Mental health counselors and social workers provide mental and behavioral interventions that have resulted in significant increase in access to care for students (30%);
- 6% decrease in high school student-reported alcohol use;
- 33% decrease in high school student-reported physical fight involvement on school property;
- 39% decrease in high school students who reported staying home from school due to feeling unsafe at school;
- Signs of Suicide Screenings: Increased the completion of Signs of Suicide screenings by over 750% within a one year period of time.
“When parents come to me seeking help, I feel I am finally able to provide them with the help they need.
I used to feel frustrated not knowing what kind of resources were available. Now I say, ‘I know you are frustrated AND I know exactly how to help’.”
— School Principal, Lyon County, NV
State and community leaders have worked together to create funding for these initiatives by leveraging state legislation (SB 515), funding from federal grants and university partnerships, and creating an Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment.