Angela Cockerham


2023 Session


Latest Action

The Senate Education Committee failed to take action on HB 1227 by the February 28 deadline, causing this bill to die in committee.

Explanation of the Bill

House Bill 1227 would create the Mental Awareness Program for Schools, which would require educator preparation programs (EPPs) to incorporate mental health instruction, establish guidelines regarding the number of students served by a school counselor, and initiate school-level teams to help identify and assist students who have been impacted by trauma. The goal of the Mental Awareness Program would be to provide emotional and mental support to students in public schools. The introduction of this bill is likely a response to the spike in mental health issues among students that has occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mental Health Instruction

HB 1227 would require EPPs to incorporate mental health instruction into their curricula. Specifically, they would be required to include information about mental disturbance awareness and trauma-informed approaches, as recommended by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. EPPs would be permitted to incorporate this information into broader courses on classroom management and student discipline. 

School Counselor Requirements

Each traditional public school district and public charter school would be required to employ at least one school counselor per 250 students, “as funds and qualified personnel become available.” If funds and qualified personnel were not available to a district, it would be authorized to employ one school counselor that serves all students and proportionally allocates their time among the schools they serve. In the case of a particular school experiencing a traumatic event, the counselor would be authorized to stay at that school until school leaders “reasonably conclude that the trauma has been mitigated.” At present, there is no cap on the number of students that a school counselor can serve, and their school assignment is left to the discretion of local school boards. 

Trauma-Informed Teams

In addition to their current responsibilities, counselors would be responsible for facilitating the creation of a trauma-informed team at each school, made up of school and district personnel. The purpose of these teams would be to identify students whose “learning, behavior, and relationships” may be impacted by trauma. The counselor(s), in collaboration with the trauma-informed team, would be required to provide one hour of training each year to administrators, teachers, and staff on recognizing trauma in students and utilizing interventions to support these students. 

School districts could partner with mental health service providers, organizations providing relevant training, or other school districts to develop and implement their trauma-informed teams and approaches. In implementing these approaches, they would also be permitted to partner with nationally-recognized consortium career services to establish internships for students pursuing a master’s degree in social work, counseling, or psychology. The interns could assist schools in providing counseling services to students in need, while gaining relevant work experience. 

Role of Mississippi Department of Education

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health would be required to create a toolkit to assist schools in guiding the development of their trauma-informed teams and approaches. School boards and charter schools would be required to develop a plan including strategies for enhancing trauma awareness; fostering a safe school environment; developing trauma-informed discipline policies; and collaborating with relevant organizations to create notification procedures for trauma-exposed students.  

Reporting Requirements

School districts and charter schools would be required to report the number and placement of school counselors to MDE by November 1 of each year. The report would include information about how the counselor positions are funded and how the counselors allocate their time. 

Revision to Ethical Requirements

HB 1227 would revise current language in the law about ethical standards that school counselors must follow. Currently, the law states that school counselors must abide by the American School Counselor Association Code of Ethics. In contrast, the proposed bill states that school counselors must abide by “a relevant national counseling code of ethics.” Codes of ethics from other nationally recognized organizations (for instance, the American Counselor Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association) are relatively similar to the one that is currently used, so the motivation for this change and its potential impact are unclear.

1/16/23On January 16, HB 1227 was referred to the House Education Committee.
1/25/23On January 25, the House Education Committee passed HB 1227.
2/9/23On February 9, the House passed HB 1227.
2/14/23On February 14, HB 1227 was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
2/28/23The Senate Education Committee failed to take action on HB 1227 by the February 28 deadline, causing this bill to die in committee.