Students and parents are pleading with the Connecticut Department of Education for an investigation into the Killingly Board of Education after the board rejected plans to bring a school-based mental health center to the high school.
In a complaint sent to Connecticut’s commissioner of the Department of Education this week, more than 50 complainants asserted that the Killingly board has failed to fulfill the educational interest of the state.
“Which is their duty and so, naturally, the next step was to bring it to the state level,” said Christine Rosati Randall, a parent from Killingly and one of the people signed on to the complaint submitted by Attorney Andrew Feinstein.
In March, the Killingly Board of Education voted down a plan to bring a school-based health center to Killingly High School. The center would have allowed therapists from Generations Family Health Center to offer mental health services in the school at no cost.
“In a region where access to mental health resources are scarce, the SBHC was a tremendous opportunity to bring much needed mental/behavioral health services to our district at no cost to the town or our families,” the parents wrote in the complaint to the CT DOE.
Concerns were previously raised at Killingly board meetings about if it was appropriate to offer the mental health services in a school. The board chairperson also questioned how a mental health survey of students was handled and if the results, showing concerns, were accurate.
“How do you know they were honest responses? They were dealing with kids. They could have written anything. That’s what kids do,” said Janice Joly, board chairperson, at a March meeting.
The state currently funds SBHCs in 27 communities across Connecticut, according to the DPH website. The centers bring various services to schools.
Killingly’s center would only offer behavioral health services, specifically therapy, according to an information meeting held last month.
Killingly Public Schools started exploring SBHCs in spring of 2021 based on a needs assessment that indicated a center would be beneficial. Superintendent Bob Angeli sent a letter to the school community in February informing them of the proposed district initiative to implement an SBHC at Killingly High School to provide behavioral health counseling.
According to the presentation, 2-1-1 requests for mental health assistance by Killingly School District are up 10% compared to the pre-pandemic need. A school nurse also reported that over the past three years, there has been a 50% increase in visits related to anxiety, depression and PTSD.
“It impacts their learning, for one. But it impacts their life, their family life, their friends,” said Rosati Randall, who was among a group of parents and students who spoke at the state Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
A representative from the Connecticut Association of School-Based Health Centers also spoke during the public comment section of the state Board of Education meeting, offering her support to Killingly.
Multiple requests for comments were sent to members of the Killingly Board of Education. NBC Connecticut did not receive responses.
The state department of education will now review the complaint and decide whether or not there is basis for an investigation.