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First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Florida Is First in Nation to Reframe and Rethink the Way Mental Health Is Taught in Schools

Orlando, Fla. — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis proposed, and the State Board of Education unanimously approved, a groundbreaking shift in how Florida supports the health and wellbeing of its students. With the approval of a new state education rule, Florida is cementing its first in the nation approach to reframe and rethink the way mental health is taught in schools, shifting from the traditional, stigma-laden mental health education model to an empowering new model based on resiliency. Florida is no longer teaching to a disorder — Florida is teaching kids the skills to learn how to overcome challenges.

The First Lady spearheaded the nation-leading education initiative with input from conversations with students across the state, as well as school district mental health coordinators, teachers, faculty, and parents. A rule development workshop was also held on September 6 to solicit input from stakeholders throughout the state. Initiative resources and required instruction on this topic are currently being developed and will include:

  • Updated character standards in the form of resiliency standards that include a focus on volunteerism, problem solving, critical thinking, compassion, and grit;

  • A million-dollar outreach effort to help inform students, parents, and teachers of resiliency support;

  • Free curriculum available to educators and parents that ties back to the foundational resiliency skills; and

  • Tools created specifically for parents interested in learning what resources are available to help their children.

“With our resiliency initiative, our goal is to equip students with the skills that will help them learn to persevere through life’s inevitable challenges,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “We are taking a negative and turning it into a positive by empowering kids to strive to overcome challenges while recognizing and celebrating the success in doing so. I am honored to partner with the State Board of Education on changing Florida’s traditional focus on mental heath to one on resilience and that incentivizes public service. In Florida, we are empowering students to have hope. No problem is insurmountable — all you need is a little help to become resilient.”

“Thank you to First Lady Casey DeSantis for her leadership and vision with resiliency education which will promote civic and character education and life skills to help students develop into confident and resilient adults,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “I look forward to this transformative educational model to serve as an example for the rest of the nation to follow.” 

The State Board adopted an amendment to its rule which revises references to the state’s academic standards and updates the existing five-hour mental health education and character education components of required classroom instruction in grades 6–12. Aligning these two required components uniquely connects the concepts of student readiness, resiliency, and, when necessary, response and recovery.

The State Board action amended Rule 6A-1.094124 entitled “Required Instruction Planning and Reporting.” The full meeting agenda can be found on the Florida Department of Education website.

First Lady DeSantis launched her Resiliency Florida Initiative in February of 2021 with professional sports teams and athletes who partnered with the state to lend their voices and personal stories of resilience and hope to empower Florida students to persevere through adversity. Partnerships include: Orlando Magic, Orlando City SC, Orlando Pride, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Inter Miami CF, Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, Florida Panthers, NASCAR, and LPGA. Athletes endorsing the initiative include: Tom Brady, David Beckham, Peyton Manning, Lou Holtz, Tony Dungy, Urban Meyer, Crystal Thomas, Ali Marpet, Bryant McFadden, Mark Richt, Twan Russell, Corey Simon, Tra Thomas, Jonathan Vilma, Charlie Ward, Tyler Johnson, Joey Logano, Brandon Lowe, and Chris Mueller.

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