Belle Plaine PS Makes Mental Health Their Top Priority


Belle Plaine Public Schools (Minnesota) has united around a central mission: to provide their students with a robust system of support centered around mental health. Just ask Superintendent, Dr. Ryan Laager:

“Addressing the mental health needs of our kids is the most important thing we do.”

On a national level, mental health continues to be a topic of great concern. Between 2007 and 2017 suicide rates rose by 3.8% per 100,000 individuals, ages 10 to 24. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American and the National Institute of Mental Health estimate that 32% of adolescents in the US struggle with an anxiety disorder. Out of those adolescents, a whopping 80% are not getting treatment.

The district started to see these startling statistics play out within their own community, so they set out to develop and implement a systemic approach to mental health. They began by outlining their mission statement (below) and communicating this message to stakeholders.

To prepare our students to be successful, young adults, capable of identifying, managing and expressing emotions, with self-confidence, self-motivation and resilience, and to have the ability to problem solve and appropriately manage stress!

With a clear vision in mind, Belle Plaine Public Schools leadership went to work establishing buy in and increasing their staff’s knowledge base around social emotional learning. They clearly articulated and defined the core components of social emotional learning (see image), what skills aligned with each, and why these would be so essential for students to develop. Finally, they selected programming within each tier of their multi-tiered systems of support model that would support students’ social and emotional wellbeing (see image). At the tier 1 level, it was important to provide teachers with easy-to-use and reliable tools that would make consistent social emotional learning a sustainable practice. Move This World was one of the programs that Belle Plaine Public Schools put into place as a tier 1 support.

Superintendent Laager explains, ‘With our initiative of implementing Move This World we are explicitly incorporating social emotional learning into our everyday practice, which enhances the emotional well being of students and staff.”

Move This World’s SEL curriculum is delivered through short, evidence-based videos that can be found on their online platform alongside facilitator guides and deeper discussion questions. Move This World has helped the district’s community establish a common language around emotions, management strategies, and conflict resolution techniques. They are seeing students who are more equipped to manage their stress and navigate challenges, and have seen students taking initiative to utilize their Move This World strategies both in and outside of the classroom by incorporating them into sports games, practicing them during times of transition, or checking in with their teachers and peers.

Belle Plaine Public Schools took their implementation of Move This World a step further by establishing a Move This World leadership team comprised of teachers from each grade level and content area as well as administrators and support staff. The leadership team coaches and supports their colleagues in implementation, helps increase awareness of SEL within the school community, and engages in ongoing discussions regarding how SEL can be integrated throughout the school day.

Margot Hansen, Assistant Principal, explains why this team has been essential to effective implementation:

“Having a leadership team in place may be one of the single most important factors in Move This World being a priority.  We know all the strategies and dialogues students are having are vital in helping them process and manage their relationships, stress, and time; however, having a leadership team in place supports the fidelity of practice, and proves it’s a priority.  The team is in place to step in for teachers who are out, so students with a substitute don’t miss MTW – ever. The team is in place to support staff members, students, and community members when questions arise. The leadership team is our positive sounding board for all.”

The district has been celebrating their comprehensive social emotional learning initiatives and keeping the wider community informed by including SEL-specific information, updates, and strategies in weekly student emails, monthly newsletters, and through social media channels. The success of the program will be evaluated through surveys completed by students, the Minnesota Student Survey, Move This World’s usage data, and built-in reflection tools throughout the curricula.

The feedback we have received from students, staff, parents and community members has been very positive so far.  All stakeholders involved realize how important Social and Emotional learning is and they’re glad we have MTW to provide a baseline level support to all of our students.  Like anything else, we feel like in order to see the true impact of this program, we’d like to commit to this practice and routine in their lives for another two years. We’ve been grateful to have a common language and a prioritized purpose.

– Mindy Chevalier, High School Principal

Interested in learning more about the systemic approach Belle Plaine Public Schools has built around mental health? Download their slide deck and resources from the MSBA Leadership Conference 2020. Session facilitated by Dr. Ryan Laager, Superintendent, and Amie Hohenstein, Mental & Chemical Health Support Coordinator.



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