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Can We Talk? Conversations About Mental Health and Behaviors in Schools

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

By Dr. Kimberly Davis (2020).


Think back to helpful conversations you have had about mental health and behavior in schools.In my experience there hasn’t been much consensus on how to help schools deal effectively with this challenge.Within these pages is information about the current status of mental health amongst our youth and a brief description of some of the most common, yet severe, emotional dysregulation disorders we see in our schools. Following the brief mental health discussion is my strategy and intervention planning framework for districts and campuses. This book includes an overview of the ways students diagnosed with mental health or behavior disorders are served and taught, as well as a summary of foundational theories to support current trends of integrated learning environments. The final chapter is an outline of solutions that need to be brought to the discussion and addresses education preparation, training and support, student early intervention and in-school support, discipline that works, and safety planning considerations. Though this book provides a crosswalk across district practices and opportunities to reform educational practices through the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is not intended to be an all-inclusive handbook or exhaustive of all resources. Rather, it is an outline to guide the hard conversations that need to happen with a framework to plan new ways of delivering education that is inclusive, meaningful, and effective. The purpose of this book is to talk about it!


It is a distinct privilege and pleasure to construct the Foreword for the to-the-point book Can We Talk? Conversations About Mental Health and Behaviors in Schools. For many years there has been growing need to begin talks and meaningful, holistic dialogue about mental health and behaviors generally, and especially in our public schools. Facilitated through this pointed book, we now have a new beginning point for conversations that will provide positive and specific focus to address a growing crisis for schools, teachers, administrators, and families; everyone, really, who is involved with the welfare of our children. Dr. Kimberly Davis has opened the door for this dialogue to take place immediately.

I know Dr. Davis and have seen first-hand her excellent work in education, business, government, and career/life environments. As a current special education director and former classroom teacher in public schools, she has unique and supportive training, experience, and skills through her certifications in mathematics, science, and appreciative inquiry with an earned doctorate in organizational leadership. Through continuing graduate studies with the University of Arkansas, she will soon add her BCBD (behavioral) certification to this list. As such, she has a rare combination of ability and insight into child mental health and how current efforts fall far short of achieving the mental, behavioral, and achievement goals needed within schools, school districts, and education systems locally, nationally, and globally.

Clearly, there is a need to be mindful of policies and responsible actions regarding the whole child and at all levels (from pre-K through12 and beyond) to develop successful, responsible citizens, one child at a time, and to holistically include every child. With this responsibility, there has been and continues to be a trend of top-down policy which is good in many ways. And yet, this one-size-fits-all style simply does not work as intended for each child, family, teachers, and the education community. All of us are affected by mental and behavioral challenges that create disruption and issues in the classroom and treatment facilities. This book provides a basis for more capably discussing, addressing, and meeting these challenges.

As a psychologist and educator, I have noted discussions and conversations about mental, behavioral, and emotional health that were not constructive or helpful. Dr. Davis understands the need for research, data collection plans, and evidence-based approaches essential to creating pathways to solutions that work. One of her gifts is to create constructive, positive, and realistic projects that work for teachers, families, schools, students, and their communities.

This is a must-read book to begin reforms necessary for our children now that will reap societal benefits well into the future. Yes, Let’s Talk . . . and take prudent actions.

Gary R. Low, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Education, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Founding Faculty, Emotional Intelligence Training and Research Institute


Are you an education administrator seeking a strategy for better behavior among students in your school? Are you a teacher who seeks a framework for behavior management? Are you a parent or guardian who desires to better understand your child’s behavior and work effectively with their school? Are you a teacher of teachers ready to embed social-emotional learning into curriculum? If you are, then you need to talk with Dr. Kimberly Davis.

Dr. Davis compels us to consider the importance of social-emotional learning and teaching. The premise of her Paradigm Fulcrum is that positive personal interactions contribute to student achievement. Certified in Appreciative Inquiry and Transformative Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Davis relays her expertise in plain English and with illustrative narratives from practice. She helps you understand the landscape of student behavior and mental health by defining behaviors, presenting theories, and listing reforms in lay language. Dr. Davis offers a four by four model of Tiers and Types in response to student behavior and mental health. She does all of this in six easy-read chapters.

Discipline and self-regulation are foundational to learning. Yet, schools struggle with discipline and students struggle with self-regulation. Can We Talk? will start conversations about mental health and behavior in schools and affect the behavioral crises in our schools.

Kelly S. Hall, Ph.D.

Department of Educational Leadership & Counseling

Texas A & M University - Kingsville

Visit Dr. Davis's Top Performance Leadership Group to learn more!



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