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Equitable Access to Supportive School and Classroom Environments DomainEquitable Access to Supportive School and Classroom Environments Domain

Disparities in Nonacademic Supports for Student Success

Last Updated: August 2023 | Suggested Citation

Supports for Emotional, Behavioral, Mental, and Physical Health

Using the 2019–20 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) data, this indicator examines one aspect of nonacademic supports, the prevalence of one aspect of nonacademic supports of mental health services in schools, as well as the limitations on schools’ efforts to provide mental health services. In addition, this indicator discusses whether the prevalence of mental health services in schools varies according to school characteristics. SSOCS asked whether and where schools provided two types of mental health services: diagnostic mental health assessments24 to evaluate students for mental health disorders25 and treatment26 for mental health disorders. This indicator discusses differences in the percentages of public schools providing diagnostic mental health assessment services to evaluate students for mental health disorders (hereafter referred to as “diagnostic services”) and mental health treatment services to students for mental health disorders (hereafter referred to as “treatment services”) by school locale, percentage of minority students, and percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch.

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In 2019–20, diagnostic services were more prevalent in schools in cities and suburban areas than in towns and rural areas. Specifically, 61 percent of schools in cities and 60 percent of schools in suburban areas reported providing diagnostic services to students, compared with 50 percent of schools in towns and 44 percent of schools in rural areas. However, the percentages of schools reporting treatment services did not vary measurably by locale.

Generally, in 2019–20, the percentages of public schools providing diagnostic or treatment services did not vary measurably by percentage of students of color enrolled.27 The only exception was that the percentage of public schools providing diagnostic services was lower for schools in which 25 percent or less of their enrollment was students of color (50 percent) than for schools in which 76 percent or more of their enrollment was students of color (60 percent).

The percentages of public schools providing diagnostic or treatment services did not vary measurably by percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL).

Figure 5. Percentage of public schools providing diagnostic mental health assessments and treatment to students, by selected school characteristics: 2019–20 

Figure 5. Percentage of public schools providing diagnostic mental health assessments and treatment to students, by selected school characteristics: 2019–20

1 Elementary schools are defined as schools that enroll students in more of grades K through 4 than in higher grades. Middle schools are defined as schools that enroll students in more of grades 5 through 8 than in higher or lower grades. Secondary/high schools are defined as schools that enroll students in more of grades 9 through 12 than in lower grades. Combined/other schools include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools. 

NOTE: A diagnostic mental health assessment is an evaluation conducted by a mental health professional that identifies whether an individual has one or more mental health diagnoses. This is in contrast to an educational assessment, which does not focus on clarifying a student’s mental health diagnosis. Treatment is a clinical intervention—which may include psychotherapy, medication, and/or counseling—addressed at lessening or eliminating the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Schools were instructed to include only services provided by a licensed mental health professional employed or contracted by the school. Mental health professionals were defined for respondents as including providers of mental health services within several different professions, each of which has its own training and areas of expertise. The types of licensed professionals who may provide mental health services may include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners, psychiatric/mental health nurses, clinical social workers, and professional counselors. Mental health disorders collectively refer to all diagnosable mental disorders or health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment. 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 233.69a

Findings in this indicator come from Prevalence of Mental Health Services Provided by Public Schools and Limitations in Schools’ Efforts to Provide Mental Health Services in the Condition of Education.

24 A diagnostic mental health assessment is an evaluation conducted by a mental health professional that identifies whether an individual has one or more mental health diagnosis.

25 Mental health disorders collectively refer to all diagnosable mental disorders or health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

26 Treatment is a clinical intervention—which may include psychotherapy, medication, and/or counseling—addressed at lessening or eliminating the symptoms of a mental health disorder.

27 The term “students of color” is being used synonymously with “minority students,” the latter of which appears in Digest tables 233.69a and 233.69b. Students of color include those who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and of Two or more races.

Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Nonacademic Supports for Student Success. Equity in Education Dashboard. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from [URL].