Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida
Tuesday, 07/07/2020
School Board Meeting

B6.09 - Approve the Purchase Agreement with Kognito Solutions LLC (Kognito) for Online Training Licenses Intended for the Building Respect-Bullying Prevention Simulation Program (Climate and Culture)


Kognito is an online simulation program that uses role play virtual people to increase the comfort and competency of educators to engage students in critical conversations relating to mental health. The topics include bullying or nonacademic related areas that impact social and emotional wellness, attendance, school climate, and academic success. Kognito is designed to provide early identification and intervention of students in distress to support health and learning as well as avert crisis situations. This evidence-based program offers real-life conversations that result in measurable changes in social, emotional, and physical health.

The Florida Department of Education selected Kognito’s at-risk simulations for elementary, middle, and high school educators in 2019. This was for districts to use in order to provide Mental Health Awareness Training as required, which was passed by legislation in the wake of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. To compliment this legislation, the district seeks to purchase Kognito. This simulation teaches participants how to respond to bullying incidents by practicing effective conversation techniques to address biased language in the classroom, reach out when signs of bullying are suspected, and reinforce staff responsibilities in reporting bullying behavior. The simulation is approximately 40-60 minutes in length. It will be used for staff members that serve secondary students at 92 schools (K-8, middle, and high schools, and Education, Prevention, and Intervention Centers sites) as well as the district office. The request is for 5,270 simulations.

The Kognito agreement with Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) will be valid for one year July 8, 2020, through July 7, 2021. School administrators and Student Services team members will provide school and district staff serving students with opportunities to participate and complete the Kognito. The Mental Health Team will support schools to ensure ease of implementation and completion of the simulation by sending step-by-step directions on how to access the content and keep track of who has completed the simulation, as well as provide any follow-up support necessary that relates to how to respond at the school site. 

Gap Analysis

Teachers continue to seek guidance on how to assist students with mental health concerns and students who have been victims of bullying. Teachers also seek guidance on how to have conversations with students to support their emotional needs. Although schools have referred many students for assistance with emotional or mental health concerns, there is a gap between the number of youth exhibiting concerns and those who receive services. Teachers are in an ideal position to observe and refer at-risk students, but most teachers have not received adequate training in this area. The goal is to increase the level of comfort and educate teachers on how to identify students who are at-risk and refer students who may need mental health and/or social emotional support. Bullying prevention is a protective factor and will contribute to a healthy climate and culture within the school building. When teachers and staff are equipped with the knowledge on how to prevent bullying, the overall emotional well-being of students will increase thus creating a better learning atmosphere.

Previous Outcomes

Kognito's health simulations have been purchased for 13,000 public schools. Five of Kognito's simulations were listed in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, and there is an increase in the effectiveness of Kognito simulations across multiple settings.

Evidence-based practices and use of Kognito simulations have been proven to be an effective training tool for educators in the areas of suicide prevention, bullying prevention, psychological distress, violence prevention, trauma-informed practices, crisis response, and mental health early intervention.

Expected Outcomes

Kognito's online interactive and research-proven training simulations are designed to educate our faculty, staff, and students about best practices in supporting mental health needs and bullying prevention. Teachers will be able to identify students in distress and refer them for services. In addition, teachers will gain an increased awareness and confidence in approaching topics that interfere with the students' overall emotional well-being.

Strategic Plan Goal

Goal 1: To increase mental health awareness in schools and provide protective and proactive measures for school safety.

Strategy 1:1 Obtain an evidence-based tool for staff to use and assist with early identification and intervention strategies for student mental health needs.

Strategy 1:2 Provide mental health training to staff as aligned in the HCPS Mental Health Plan in accordance with the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.


Approve the purchase of 92 site-based and district-based licenses of the Kognito Building Respect-Bullying Prevention Simulation Program for staff serving students at secondary school sites.


Elizabeth Tanner, Supervisor, Emotional Wellness, elizabeth.tanner@sdhc.k12.fl.us, (813) 272-4831
Holly Saia, Ed. S., General Director, Student Services, holly.saia@sdhc.k12.fl.us, (813) 273-7136
Tracye H. Brown, Chief of Climate and Culture, tracye.brown@sdhc.k12.fl.us, (813) 272-4879

Financial Impact

Purchases will not exceed the amount of $125,856 from the Youth Mental Health Awareness and Training Administration Project. 

Review Comments

Gretchen Saunders , Chief Financial Officer (813) 272-4270