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Travel, gas, computer systems among purchases made through Florida school districts with mental fitness dollars

TAMPA, Fla. — Less than one month after the taking pictures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High on Valentine’s Day, Florida lawmakers authorized more than $ sixty-nine million dollars to faculties, earmarked for mental fitness.

“This was the first time that changed into ever achieved,” said Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R) of Naples.

The law stipulated few rules on how faculty districts should use the money. School districts needed to put up a mental health plan to the nation and at least ninety% of the cash needed to be spent on proof-based mental health care to students, in line with the regulation.

But with 67 school districts across the nation, “there are many one-of-a-kind approaches you can interpret it,” stated Dr. Mike Desjardins, Executive Director of Student Support for the Charlotte County school district.

The Charlotte County school district changed into allocated one of the smallest quantities- just over $four hundred,000 in nation intellectual health finances to enhance it’s intellectual health services. Roughly half the money has already been spent on new intellectual fitness hires, said Desjardins.

“For the primary time in a long term we have a full-time social employee in any respect of our excessive faculties,” said Desjardins who labored with the Superintendent to decide how to spend the district’s part of the price range. But Dr. Desjardins additionally says determining how to spend the cash has been challenging for the reason that law didn’t provide a lot of steerage on how to use it.

“You don’t need to make a screw up by coincidence and get gigged on it. You want to make sure you’re spending the money the manner the lawmakers intended.” When requested what he believed can be construed as an incorrect manner of spending the cash, Dr. Desjardins replied, “It became crystal clear inside the invoice that you’re presupposed to provide direct services to college students. Incorrect is the use of the money to move on trips, shopping for furnishings on your office, hiring personnel that might be deemed no longer intellectual health-related,” he said.

Records display different college districts have used a part of its price range to rent a clerical team of workers, which include a “confidential” secretary to address scholar intellectual fitness information. Since November, we have requested nearly dozen faculty districts across the country for info on how the one’s districts have spent the new intellectual health price range allocated as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. We asked for price range line reports and receipts for purchases made with the cash. All the districts we contacted have used the general public of its funding thus far hiring new mental health experts and conducting mental fitness training.

Other prices we located variety from travel and gas to materials inclusive of reproduction paper and computer systems. One district used its mental fitness investment to buy 20 new laptop computer systems for just over $sixteen,000.

“We didn’t inform them a way to spend it,” said Florida Senator Passidomo. She helped push lawmakers to approve the cash remaining spring.

“What we said became you understand what the needs are to your network. All we’d such as you to do is to create a plan,” she defined. Those plans need to be submitted by using every college district some weeks after the new college yr commenced within the fall.

But FL Representative Byron Donalds sees the need to clarify the spending rules inside the future.

“It’s constantly thrilling when districts have cash at their disposal, what they do,” he said. “We may have to either retool, tighten up, perhaps amplify however we need to ensure schools have become the pleasant bang for your greenback,” he stated.