Professor Elizabeth Ramsey is working on a bill with Sen. Paul Bailey that requires Tennessee middle school students to enroll in an introduction to social health courses.
Due to COVID-19, the bill was tabled, but in February, Republican Ryan Williams will carry the bill into the House.
Ramsey said social health includes content such as healthy lifestyles, lifespan development, healthy relationships and effective communication skills, career exploration, resource management, and appropriate technology use.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was at Spankies and had been doing a Trauma Informed Care training when I ran into Senator Bailey. I basically told him that social health would’ve been a great piece to the education pie, and he was interested,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey taught English at Avery Trace middle school from 2018 to 2019 before becoming an associate professor of Family and Sciences Education at Tech.
Ramsey implemented social health education at the middle school where she taught and began to advocate for it. She said it was pulled due to issues with funding.
“What I noticed within three weeks into the school year was that I had a lot of repeated behavioral problems, so children that were fighting, violent, shoving kids against lockers. I mean just the same things over and over,” Ramsey said.
She said a lot of the students who had behavioral problems also had high adverse childhood experiences, or ACE’s. ACE’s are physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect.
“61% of Tennessee children have experienced at least one ACE, and 24% of those children have experienced four or more. That’s when you really start to see negative health outcomes. You know, you begin to see it affecting generations,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said she believes it is important for children to learn how to resolve conflicts, understand and regulate their emotions, and learn about healthy relationships in order for them to do better in school.
“The reason why I am so passionate about social health is because we have an opportunity to teach children ways to just kind of break those cycles that they might be living in,” Ramsey said. “Education is power. We can empower children and they can start to see a way of coping, a different way of managing anger. You’re able to teach them that there is another way.”
Ramsey said she believes that social health is both preventative and restorative, and she is still advocating for the bill in hopes that it will go through.