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Editor’s note: This story led off this week’s Mississippi Learning newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers’ inboxes with trends and top stories about education in Mississippi. Subscribe today!

Mississippi has been highlighted in a new report as one of ten states in the nation that has robust policies that encourage “healthy schools,” defined as those that fully support a student’s “academic, physical, emotional, and social well-being.”

The report, released by several organizations including the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Child Trends, the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and EMT Associates, Inc., analyzed state statutes and regulations relating to ten domains of health, including nutrition, social services, employee wellness and family engagement. Mississippi’s statutes and regulations were found to be “comprehensive” in six of these domains, including health education and employee wellness. The state is the only one in the nation to comprehensively cover employee wellness in its policies.

Mississippi did particularly well in the areas of health education, which includes requiring a healthy eating and nutrition curriculum in all grade levels, and incorporating social and emotional learning in some grade levels. The state also scored well in health services, which include requiring preventive health screenings across grade levels. The state’s policies regarding nutrition environment and services, counseling, psychological and social services, and community engagement were rated “moderate.”

In the counseling, psychological and social services domain, the report found Mississippi’s statutes and regulations failed to address school-based mental health services, professional development for mental health, or professional development for trauma. The state’s lack of school-community and interagency partnerships and failure to address community use of public school facilities earned it a score of 40 percent in community involvement, well below the national average of 67 percent.

The report is part of a larger initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the nonprofit group ASCD to push schools to address physical, mental and social well-being. These supports in nonacademic areas ultimately help children perform better academically.

Various schools in Mississippi have been recognized for initiatives to improve health among their students. Despite the many policies highlighted in the report, the state has long struggled with persistent issues like food insecurity and poverty which can negatively impact a child’s health and well-being. Many of the state’s children also lack access to mental health care.

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  1. I would be really interested to see the data disaggregated by race and income. I taught in the Mississippi delta for 2 years, albeit 20 years ago, and the racial segregation and disparity were massive.

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