Audit finds 24% of Brevard Public Schools staff completed state-required mental health training

District blames shortage of teachers and training opportunities

VIERA, Fla. – As a new Brevard County school board focuses on student discipline, the state released a report on student mental health awareness and training.

Vanessa Skipper, vice president of Brevard county’s teachers’ union, reacted to the state auditor general finding that as of last summer, just 24% of more than 8,000 Brevard Public Schools personnel had completed mental health training required for staff since the Parkland shooting in 2018.

“It was alarming, but it wasn’t surprising,” Skipper said regarding the challenges of training staff.

In a letter responding to the report, the district blamed a shortage of trainers, lack of opportunities to train additional trainers, and substitute teacher shortage preventing teachers from taking time away from class for training.

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Skipper said the training has helped her spot students dealing with mental health issues.

“I was more vigilant about understanding or approaching issues differently just in case there might be a need for a student to get extra help,” she said.

The district said it will address the trainer shortage by training six qualified employees as soon as possible and hiring a mental health trainer when district employees aren’t available.

In addition to being trained during school hours, the district said it’s also allowing teachers to complete the training during the summer or on weekends.

Skipper said the Brevard Federation of Teachers encourages educators to sign up, as the district will pay staff to take the training.

The audit also looked at school resource officers and mental health training.

Last summer, Brevard law enforcement agencies reported 61 of 75 SROs completed the required training, but the auditor general found the district did not verify those numbers independently.

The district said it’s now documenting training for SROs and not just relying on law enforcement agencies to report the data.

With the corrective actions, the Brevard Federation of Teachers said it’s confident the percentage of staff completing the training will improve.

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About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.