Mental Health and Positive Student and Educational Outcomes

Mental Health Awareness Month

Dear IUSD Community,

The Irvine Unified School District joins our nation in recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to raise awareness about this important topic.  As local, state and national health conditions continue to improve and our society continues to re-open, there is much to be optimistic about as we begin to regain a sense of normalcy.  However, throughout the course of this last year, many IUSD students and families have experienced some degree of anxiety, stress, loss, grief, uncertainty or illness and may need supports and resources.   

IUSD Services and Supports

Throughout May, IUSD and our schools will share focused information about mental health and wellness, and highlight resources, services and supports available to our students and families. As our partners, we encourage you to take a moment to review these resources and discuss them with your family.  To learn more about IUSD resources and our dedicated team of people, who are here to support students and families, visit our Prevention and Intervention and Mental Health and Wellness webpages.  

Mental Health is a Critical Component of Positive Educational Outcomes for Students

Mental health is not only a critical component of overall health and wellbeing but also of an exemplary education.  The IUSD Board of Education and the District have long recognized this connection and have made significant long-term investments in mental health and wellness.  Our district has embraced a multi-tiered system of supports that addresses both prevention and interventions to effectively meet our students’ needs.  This includes:

  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Optimistic learning (growth mindset, intellectual risk taking and mindfulness practices)
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports systems (PBIS)
  • Restorative Justice practices
  • Staff development and trainings to help identify and support students who are struggling and/or experiencing trauma
  • Creating awareness, while connecting students and families to IUSD services and supports     

We start with the foundational belief that supporting the social-emotional wellness of all students not only removes barriers to learning but can also equip them with essential capacities – skills that will help them become resilient and resourceful learners, who are able to adapt and demonstrate perseverance as they face academic and other challenges.  This includes fostering a growth mindset and intellectual risk taking, along with mindfulness practices to advance student outcomes. The neuroscience and data behind this approach reaffirms that students, who possess hope and optimism and embrace mistakes as part of the learning process, succeed at higher levels both academically and personally.

Creating Positive Learning Environments and Community on Campus

Our schools, teachers and staff are committed to creating safe and positive learning environments in which students can cultivate and strengthen these practices.  A key component of this is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports systems, known as PBIS.  These systems are implemented on all IUSD campuses and establish student expectations for the learning and teaching environment, social culture and campus norms.  PBIS is the gold standard of addressing school climate issues, it supports academic success and develops a strong school culture in which students learn early on what behavior is expected. This has proven critical in supporting students and helping them feel comfortable reporting behavior or concerns that are not in line with their school’s culture.  PBIS works in tandem with Restorative Justice practices, which are processes that proactively build healthy relationships and a sense of community on campus to prevent and address conflict. 

Staff Development and Training

In order to develop these capacities in our students and support these processes on our campuses, we also need to develop them in our leadership, teachers and staff, while continuing to make investments in mental health and wellness.  IUSD administrators, teachers and staff attend trainings and professional development meetings throughout each school year, covering a variety of topics to meet the diverse needs of our students.  This includes trauma-informed practices which help school employees identify and appropriately respond to students who may have been exposed to traumatic or stressful events.  This also includes training for our IVA teachers and staff who are working with students in the virtual learning environment.  Our goal is to continually improve and support each student with empathy and respect for their experiences.    

Thank You for Your Partnership

IUSD’s mission is to provide students with the highest quality educational experience we can envision.  To meet this vital mission for our more than 35,000 students, we rely on our partnership with students, staff and families.  On behalf of the Board of Education, we thank you for your extraordinary partnership and support, especially during this unprecedented time.  Please continue to look for communications from your schools and on school and District social media for mental health and wellness information throughout this month.        

Sincerely,
Terry L. Walker
Terry L Walker
Superintendent of Schools
Irvine Unified School District