State Policies that Support Healthy Schools

Research BriefHealthy SchoolsFeb 19 2021

In 2019, Child Trends partnered with the Institute for Health Research and Policy of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC-IHRP), EMT Associates, Inc., and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to publish the first comprehensive policy analysis to explore codified state statutes and regulations covering each of the 10 domains of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework for healthy schools. This brief and the accompanying state profiles serve as an update to that seminal analysis, focusing on changes in policies that occurred from September 2017 (as covered in the prior report) to September 2019 and expanding our assessment of state policies to include those that do not appear in codified statutes and regulations (i.e., noncodified State Board policies, guidance documents, etc.).

By documenting how states are approaching school health in codified and noncodified policies, we aim to provide a resource (both this brief and the accompanying NASBE State Policy Database on School Health) for policymakers, journalists, advocates, and researchers to quickly and easily describe the current landscape of state policies related to school health. Such a resource can help state policymakers identify example approaches from other states on related policies, or help advocates identify states on which to focus their attention. The landscape also highlights areas that are not being addressed by the vast majority of states (e.g., employee wellness), and for which policy innovation could both address gaps and further integrate schools’ work across the WSCC. Finally, by identifying areas of policy change from 2017 to 2019, this year’s report highlights areas that may continue to require attention in future years, particularly as we seek to understand more about the potential effects of those policies—both the intended effects of improving student health and potential unintended effects such as exacerbating inequities.

Key Findings

  • Every state had at least some shifts in codified healthy schools policy from 2017 to 2019, with Tennessee and Wyoming experiencing the most changes.
  • Changes occurred in every domain of the WSCC, with those related to school safety and security and student mental health seeing the most churn.
  • Of the 10 topic areas with the most churn, three focus on professional development.
  • On average, one third of topics that are unaddressed in states’ codified policies are addressed in noncodified policies.

The Delaware state profile was updated to reflect a previously omitted law that requires school districts to fund school nurses in each school. This law did not appear as part of our original search methodology.

Individual State Profiles