California State PTA Invites You to a Panel on Student Mental Health in California Schools

Join the California State PTA Legislation Team on March 15th to hear a panel of experts from CA Association of School Counselors, CA School Social Workers Association, CA Association of School Psychologists, and First 5 California discuss how our kids’ mental health is impacting their schooling, and their take on what can and should be done.

When: Tuesday | March 15 | 7pm-8pm
Location: Via Zoom

This event will be interpreted in Spanish. 


Register Now






Cristina Dobon-Claveau
, LCSW, PPSC has been a School Social Worker for 16 years.  She has been on the CASSW Board since 2017,  She began her career in the Minneapolis area serving students in K-12 settings.  Since moving to California she served in various roles in Sacramento area districts as a School Social Worker doing PBIS coaching, ERMHS counseling, and most recently implementing Wellness Centers in a local high school district.  Currently, she is a Coordinator of Mental Health and Wellness for the Sacramento County Office of Education.  She has a passion for ensuring students have access to mental health and social-emotional supports in schools.

Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, MSW, PPS serves as Executive Director for First 5 California and is a professor for Sacramento State’s School Nursing Credential program. She has extensive experience in the non-profit and public sector having served as executive staff for GRACE/the End Child Poverty CA campaign; the National Center for Youth Law; Statewide Foster Youth Services Director at the California Department of Education; and Senior Policy Advisor to California Senate President Darrell Steinberg.  Ms. Wong prides herself in being a school-based social worker who has a focus on strong comprehensive collaborations across agencies and diverse stakeholder groups.

Dr. Maureen Schroeder has been a school psychologist for 22 years, has been a graduate educator for the last 12 years, and has earned her doctorate degree in Educational Psychology.  She is currently working for Elk Grove Unified School District, providing mental and behavioral health support to middle school students.  Aside from being a practitioner, she is also actively involved in our State and National association, currently Immediate Past-President of CASP and NASP California Delegate.  She is also an Assistant Professor for UMass Global, School of Education, and oversees their School Psychology program.

Dr. Loretta Whitson is the Executive Director for the California Association of School Counselors (CASC), the largest state association representing school counselors in the nation.  CASC guides schools towards linking school counseling to their overall mission and vision. Dr. Whitson, well regarded within the profession of school counseling, provides policy recommendations and advises state and local decision-makers on educational issues. Whitson spent 25 years as a school district administrator and school counselor in the Monrovia Unified School District. Dr. Whitson’s work in Monrovia was instrumental in the interconnections between school- and community-based mental health services. She also served as a Commissioner on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and was an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Educational Counseling Program at the University of La Verne.



Futureproof: A Book About Your Kids’ Futures (and Yours)

By California State PTA Family Engagement and Communication Commission


Futureproof, written by technology writer Kevin Roose, offers new perspectives and interesting food for thought on matters that shape the relationship between families and schools today. The book suggests “nine rules for humans in the age of automation.”  It’s an important topic if you want to ensure that your children’s education stays relevant in future job markets while also supporting their social and emotional health. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives, at work and at home, how can we protect people from being replaced by automation and preserve our humanity?

Among the author’s more interesting insights is that rather than try to compete with computers in terms of productivity and efficiency – where the computers have the upper hand, so to speak – we should focus on developing those human skills and attributes where we do have the advantage: our creativity, our ability to make sense out of novel and chaotic situations, and our capacity to understand and personally relate to the feelings of other humans. Our future success depends on being able to do the things that the computer can’t do – things that highlight the efforts and contributions made by other people (examples include products or services described as artisanal, concierge, personal, or hand-crafted).  

PTA has a role to play

Roose recommends we “build big nets and small webs.”  The term big nets refers to the kinds of social safety programs established to protect children, youth, and families in times of crisis (a common focus for PTA advocacy efforts). PTAs themselves can be thought of as small webs since our local associations are frequently on the front lines finding creative ways to help families when they find themselves in need or distress, as recently demonstrated during the pandemic. For many members of our school communities, PTA activities and support for family engagement offered a means of resilience, encouragement, aid, and friendship during difficult times.

Recent news stories about the lack of accountability among social media companies and the implications of the content they relentlessly provide may be motivating you to reexamine technology use in your own households.  It could be time for you as PTA leaders to consider the growing influence of the digital world more broadly and decide how that should influence PTA strategies for family engagement related to the education offered in your local schools. 

Implications for what schools teach

Roose notes that while “many ideas have been proposed and tested for bringing our educational system into the twenty-first century,” most have dealt primarily with how we teach, rather than what we should teach.  His recommendations for practical skills that maximize the advantages of people over machines include:

  • Attention Guarding – Finding ways to maintain our focus despite a persistent onslaught of external forces trying to distract us.  This isn’t simply a matter of maintaining productivity but is important in our ability to exercise control over where we choose to direct our attention.
  • Room Reading – It takes emotional intelligence to be able to “read a room” – a skill that is valuable in the workplace.  Roose suggests that women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ people may be particularly adept at this as it has long been an essential skill for their success in the dominant culture. 
  • Resting – A surprising skill to cultivate is the ability to allow yourself sufficient rest to help prevent burnout and exhaustion, and to reconnect with our human selves.  Roose suggests, “In the automated future, as more of our contributions come from big breakthroughs, inspired ideas, and emotional aptitude, being well-rested is going to become even more critical.”
  • Digital Discernment – As people increasingly get their news and information from social media networks, it becomes ever more important to engage critical thinking skills to distinguish truth from fiction and to differentiate between credible sources and sponsored content.  “…It’s going to get even harder in the coming years with the rise of algorithmically generated text, realistic conversational AI, and synthetic video (‘deepfakes’) produced with the help of machine learning,” Roose cautions.
  • Analog Ethics – In an age when our value will come from our ability to relate to other people, Roose asserts that treating people well, acting ethically, and behaving in prosocial ways will remain essential to lifelong success. Schools that offer social-emotional learning programs to children are more likely to produce well-socialized, responsible adults able to cope with change.
  • Consequentialism – Organizations that create or use AI systems need to anticipate the ways these products can be misused, exploited, or gamed. Consequentialist thinking can be useful both in spotting flaws in technological systems before they cause catastrophic problems and, in other areas such as medicine, law enforcement, and human rights, being alert to where significant opportunities for error exist. Roose recommends incorporating consequentialist thinking as a standard part of STEM curriculum.

In the book’s final pages, Roose urges readers to step into the broader conversation, to “learn the details of the power structures that are shaping technological adaptation and bend those structures toward a better, fairer future.”  

This is certainly an opportunity for family and PTA engagement – to use our collective influence to help shape education, public policy, and the technological landscape to benefit children, youth, and families.

Parents Can Help Prevent Bullying

By California State PTA Health & Community Concerns Commission

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying is a serious issue at home and in school, and parents and caring adults can play pivotal roles in creating healthy, safe school and community climates.

In a 2019 publication, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that one out of five students in the U.S. said they had been bullied. Researchers have also found that bullied students are more likely to take a weapon to school, get involved in physical fights, and suffer from anxiety and depression, health problems, and mental health problems. They also suffer academically (especially high-achieving black and Latinx students). Research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score worse on standardized assessments than schools with a better climate.

Five Tips For Parents To Help Prevent Bullying
Parents and guardians are among a school’s best allies in bullying prevention:

  • Talk with and listen to your children every day. Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable sharing experiences with their parents before they are involved in bullying are more likely to involve them after.
  • Spend time at school, especially during recess. Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during “free” time, like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with their peers. 
  • Set a good example. Children are observing when you get angry at a waiter, another driver, etc. Model effective communication techniques, especially when they are present. As puts it, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is okay.”
  • Create healthy anti-bullying habits. Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both, what not to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) and what to do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away and ignore the bully).
  • Make sure your child understands that bullying is not okay. Explicitly explain what it is and that it’s not normal or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.

Parents Can Help Stop Online Bullying As Well
Kids may not always recognize teasing as bullying. Some kids also may be too embarrassed or ashamed to talk to their parents about it.

That’s why it’s important to talk about online and digital behavior before your child starts interacting with others online and with devices, as this article from Common Sense Media suggests. 

Additional Resources

Click here to access the California State PTA’s bullying prevention resources, which include advice about preparing your kid for going online or getting a cell phone, and advice about what to do if you know he or she has been bullied online.

Click here to access National PTA bullying prevention resources and an informative podcast that includes strategies for supporting children who are bullied and offers advice to parents who have learned that their child is doing the bullying.

PACER provides innovative resources for students, parents, educators, and others related to bullying prevention, including a report on the latest statistics.

The website also provides valuable information on bullying prevention.

Do you have more questions?  Email

California State PTA Responds to Governor’s Announcement About Closure of Schools for Remainder of Academic Year

SACRAMENTO – APRIL 1, 2020 – California State PTA has released the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s press conference today, in which he made important announcements about school closures, distance learning, and bridging the digital divide during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We at California State PTA stand behind the Governor in his efforts to keep children, families, and school staff safe during this crisis,” said Celia Jaffe, President of California State PTA. “We concur with the Governor that quality distance learning, meals for students, and the care and supervision of children are top priorities in the coming months. Efforts to provide internet access are particularly important for our underserved communities. Parents and caregivers throughout California are performing multiple roles during this outbreak, and the Governor’s expression of appreciation for their extraordinary efforts is very well received by PTA.”


About California State PTA: California State PTA connects families, schools and communities. We are part of the foundation of our public-education system and a trusted messenger to millions of members, parents, families, educators and allied agencies throughout the state. PTA is the nation’s largest volunteer-led child-advocacy association working to drive improvements in the education, health and well-being of all children and families. For more information:


Heather Ippolito
Vice President for Communications

Ignacio Barragan
Assistant Executive Director

POLICY REPORT: PTA Survey Reveals Parents’ Views on Science Education (NGSS)

November 6, 2018

Media Contacts:

Nine Out of 10 Parents Agree Learning Science is Equally Important as Reading, Writing and Math


California parents say that science learning is vitally important and they support the kinds of changes in science instruction envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), according to a recent survey conducted by California State PTA. The survey, with more than 2,000 respondents (see overview below), also revealed about half of parents believe their district does not provide enough science instruction at the elementary school level.

Parents’ belief in the importance of science was the strongest message out of the survey, with nearly nine out of 10 agreeing or strongly agreeing that learning science is equally important as reading, writing and math. The results were similar across all parents surveyed, regardless of the child’s age, their own science background, their ethnic and socio-economic background, or their engagement in school activities. In addition, 80 percent of parents reacted positively to messages that “science is central to how we understand and make sense of the world around us,” and “a strong science education is essential for college and career readiness.”

“As California proceeds with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it is important for parents to understand and support the changes schools are making,” said California State PTA President Dianna MacDonald. “Our survey results indicate parents think science instruction is vital and that they welcome the kinds of changes the state expects schools to put into place.”

When presented with descriptions of how instruction will change under NGSS, more than 80 percent of the parents surveyed said they felt favorably or very favorably toward the new standards. Parents find particularly appealing the idea that the new standards encourage students to ask lots of questions and emphasize hands-on investigation and discovery. They were equally positive about the new standards beginning at an early age and engaging students who may not think of themselves as “science kids.”

The respondents were also nearly unanimous in supporting the need for children to be equipped with critical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills, consistent with the state’s learning goals in English language arts and mathematics.

The California State PTA survey also made clear that many parents see plenty of room for improvement in both the quality and quantity of science instruction their children currently receive.

  • Only 56 percent are satisfied with the amount of science their child is receiving, and the responses were markedly less positive among elementary school parents, with just 43 percent agreeing.
  • Less than half (46 percent) agreed with the statement “the science program at my child’s school is equal to the best schools in California.”

Asked whether their child attended a science class or had a science lesson either daily or weekly, seven out of 10 survey respondents said yes. However, that dropped to just over half (54 percent) among elementary parents.

Along with questions about their own children’s experiences, the PTA survey asked parents their opinion about whether science instruction in their school district as a whole was sufficient. The responses varied by grade level, with 53 percent saying their district was not providing enough science instruction in local elementary schools, 24 percent saying the same about middle schools, and 19 percent saying “not enough” in high school

The survey also indicates that schools could do more to enlist parents’ active engagement with science learning. Parents were nearly unanimous in saying it’s important for their child to have science-related learning experiences outside of the classroom but only half said they know a lot about the science their child is learning in school.

The majority also said they could better support their child’s science education if they better understood the curriculum and had ideas about fun science activities to do at home. Only about a quarter of parents agreed or strongly agreed that their child’s teacher provides those kinds of ideas, with the response consistent across all grade levels and ethnic backgrounds.

With the California State Board of Education’s formal adoption of instructional materials aligned with NGSS, more schools will be actively implementing new science teaching approaches. In addition, this spring students will take the first statewide science tests that will be reported for school accountability purposes. Notably, half of parents surveyed say that they are completely unfamiliar with the terms Next Generation Science Standards and NGSS.

Parents could play a significant role in helping schools’ NGSS implementation efforts succeed. However, their support will be much stronger if schools take the time to explain the new standards, address parents’ questions, and tap into their enthusiasm for science learning both in and out of school.

Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts Standards


California State PTA in partnership with Create CA is pleased to launch the newly revised Parents’ Guide to Arts Education in California Public Schools. This guide provides an overview of what your child will learn in the arts disciplines of dance, music, theatre and the visual arts by the end of each grade level.

By asking about the arts program at your child’s school, you are showing your interest in all students, not just the “talented,” having the opportunity to express their unique individuality through creating and learning in and through the arts.

The information is grouped into four sections:

Download the full guide here:



  • A snapshot of your child as they experience the arts in their classroom at each grade level.
  • A few key examples of what is typically taught in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts at each grade level to use as a starting point in talking to
    your child’s teacher.
  • Questions to ask the teacher about your child’s progress in arts learning and about the school’s arts program.
  • Ideas for what you can do to help your child learn in the arts at school, at home and in the community.
  • If you are interested in expanding or improving the visual and performing arts program at your child’s school, key resources for getting started are provided.

The arts learning examples in this guide are based on the Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools, the California Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards and the National Core Arts Standards. While standards in every subject area are revised over the years, if your child is being provided with the type of arts content suggested here in each grade, he or she will be well prepared for learning in the arts in each grade level.

“California State PTA is excited to provide this arts curriculum guide for parents and education advocates across California. In partnership with CREATE CA, California State PTA has put together a simple, easy-to-read guide of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Standards by grade level. This guide, in conjunction

with the California Arts Education Data Project, will give parents and education advocates a snapshot of how a full arts curriculum advances student success socially, emotionally and academically.” – Celia Jaffe, President, California State PTA

Four Big Upgrades to California’s Public Schools

California’s K-12 public schools are undergoing an ambitious remodeling project, with a focus on ensuring all students, no matter who they are or what their circumstance, graduate high school ready to succeed in higher education, careers, and in life.

All of these changes work together locally to give parents, students, educators and communities more of a say in the ways education funding is spent in their school district, how priorities are set, and the strategies used to meet the unique needs of all students.

Upgrades include:

  1. High Learning Standards for All Students
  2. Student-Centered Funding
  3. Locally-Created Plans for Your District
  4. Measuring Local Progress.

Download the flier in English or Spanish.

Suicide Prevention

Know the Signs

According to 2014 data, suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. teens. People who are suicidal often do or say things that are signals they may be thinking about committing suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares common warning signs to watch for:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves. This may begin with seemingly harmless comments like, “I wish I wasn’t here”
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing, or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Putting their affairs in order or giving away possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Planning, possibly by looking around, to buy, steal or borrow the tools needed to commit suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication.

Knowing what to look for is the first step in helping someone who may be considering suicide. If you sense that something is wrong, trust your instincts.

Find the Words

Start the Conversation:

If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. Don’t be afraid! Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. Talking about suicide won’t give the person ideas about death. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Tell the person you are worried about them. Mention the warning signs you have noticed. Be sure to have suicide crisis resources on hand.

Ask about Suicide:

Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide. If they say they are feeling hopeless or considering suicide, take them seriously.


Express concern and reassure the person. Listen with empathy and provide support. Someone who is experiencing emotional pain or suicidal thoughts can feel isolated, even with family and friends around.

Create a Safety Plan:

A safety plan can help guide a person through a crisis and help keep them safe. A safety plan is a written list of coping strategies and sources of support for people who are at high risk for suicide. The strategies found in a customized safety plan can be used before or during a suicidal crisis.

Make sure the person you care about keeps the plan easily accessible in case they have thoughts of hurting themselves. Ask the person if they have access to any lethal means (weapons, medications, etc.) and help remove them from the vicinity.

For information and a template on how to create a safety plan, visit or

Get Help:

Provide the person with the resources you have come prepared with. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.

If you feel the situation is critical, take the person to a nearby emergency room or walk-in psychiatric crisis clinic, or call 9-1-1.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 9-8-8

You can also chat online by visiting and clicking the Chat button.

The Lifeline is free, confidential and always available.

Trevor Project  — 1-866-488-7386

The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth and is always available.

Crisis Text Line — Text HELLO to 741741

The Crisis Text Line is free 24/7 and confidential.


California State PTA supported AB 2246 (O’Donnell 2016) which mandated that the governing board of any local educational agency that services pupils in grades seven to twelve adopt a policy on pupil suicide prevention, intervention, and post-vention. The bill was signed into law by Governor Brown and went into effect at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The law specifically addresses the needs of high-risk groups, including suicide awareness and prevention training for teachers.

The California Department of Education has developed a model policy to guide district’s efforts in developing an appropriate policy in their school district. View the Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy at