A new guidance document on mental health in schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests schools should “focus on equity” and explore establishing race-based affinity groups as one way to achieve it.

The guidance is titled “Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in Schools: An Action Guide for School and District Leaders” and was released this month to help school administrators and teachers “identify evidence-based strategies, approaches, and practices that can positively influence students’ mental health,” according to the CDC.

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“Schools play an important role in promoting the behavioral and mental health and well-being of students through education, prevention, and early intervention efforts,” the guidance’s introduction reads.

But in addition to recommending schools have adequate mental health staff and “consistent administrator buy-in and support,” the guidance also pushed schools to focus on equity as a way to address mental health and prioritize girls, youth who report experiencing racism, youth from racial and ethnic minority groups, and youth who identify as LGBT because students in those groups “often feel less connected at school and experience poor mental health.” The guidance also suggests that schools should have more teachers from racial and ethnic backgrounds that align with the student body.

“While racial/ethnic minority students make up over half of the population of students in the U.S. public education system, fewer than two in ten teachers have racial/ethnic minority identities,” according to the guidance. “This is a notable gap since research has found that having school staff who are representative of the racial/ethnic backgrounds of students in the school can increase connectedness within the school and between staff and students.”

Another idea the guidance posits is to “support connection at school for all students, including students at higher risk for being disconnected” is to have affinity groups for students of color and LGBT students. Race-based affinity groups have been used by a number of public schools around the country, several of which have been hit with civil rights complaints from parent groups who say the practice amounts to racial segregation.

“The guide encourages schools to establish affinity groups, which are not tied to the teaching environment, where students of like interests and identities can experience social connectedness, which can contribute to better mental health,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“Examples of affinity groups seen in some schools include chess, math, music or art clubs,” the spokesperson said. “The guide is suggesting the same for groups of students who might like affinity groups of their own. Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate and misleading.”

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The guidance was met with a harsh response from House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who said the CDC is using the nation’s mental health crisis to “push a far-left vision of mental health that is totally out-of-step with what our children need.”

“This guidance completely misses the mark of what’s best for students and their families,” Foxx said. “Segregation has no place in our classrooms, and schools should never presume without first asking parents how to respond to such sensitive issues as gender dysphoria. It’s a shame that the CDC has injected a far-left vision of gender and race into guidance that should be bipartisan. The CDC should get back to its mission to ‘protect America from health, safety and security threats,’ and stop lobbying for a woke political agenda.”


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