Tempe Union High School Governing Board is expected to hear students at its meeting tonight renew their year-old plea for more attention to mental health issues in the district.
The contingent of students from all Tempe Union High Schools has been organized by Armando Montero, who graduated in May from Desert Vista High School but hasn’t given up his campaign for more mental health services in the district’s high schools.
A year ago, Montero and other students appeared before the board as their counterparts in the statewide student movement called March for Our Lives appeared before numerous school boards with the same plea.
“We still want to make sure we are heard; more attention needs to be paid to suicide prevention, mental health, social-emotional well-being in general,” said Montero, no a student at Arizona State University.
In the year that has transpired since he and other students appeared before Tempe Union and other governing boards, Montero said, not enough has been done to address student well-being.
“One of the biggest things we tried working on was having the student advisory committees at all of the seven schools,” Montero said.
He said students met with Superintendent Kevin Mendivil and with his help a pilot committee was started at Desert Vista.
“Since the end of the last school year and the beginning of this year, we’ve gotten promises from him of, ‘Yes, we’ll start doing this. I’ll start finding some kids. We’ll start working on it with other schools. And it’s gone absolutely nowhere,” Monero said.
“I know they have hired a new social-emotional well-being coordinator at the district,” he continued. “But she’s only part time. Her workload is insane. I’m not sure how many hours she’s working, but I know she’s only working a couple of days.”
He said there have been suicide attempts by students in the district but “it’s just swept under the rug.”
“So, I think there are still lots of issues the district is facing and something needs to be done,” he added,
At the state level, Montero said he and other students are equally frustrated.
The governor and Legislature made $20 million available to districts, but they have a choice between hiring counselors or school resource officers.
Moreover, the board indicated months ago the money would likely not be distributed until this month or later since it had to develop a process for allocating it.
“I don’t think the $20 million has even been distributed yet,” Montero said. “But we don’t believe it should be used to hire school resource officers.”
“There really isn’t much discussion around mental health,” Montero said. “There is discussion about school safety, but I think one of the biggest things that needs to be kind of addressed is the link between mental health and school safety.”
As an ASU student, Montero said students’ mental and emotional well-being is a big issue, but more resources are available to help.
Even so, he added, “It’s a very stressful environment with all the work and pressure schools put on students. It’s still something that needs to be looked at on the college level.”
The Tempe Union board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today, Dec. 4, at district headquarters on Guadalupe Road near Hardy Road.
He said he’s hoping more students show up to address their board with their concerns – and parents attend as well to hear first-hand about those concerns.