EDUCATION

The Bazelon Center believes that schools should help all children–including children with mental health needs–become successful adults who can hold jobs, live independently, and be engaged in their communities.  We believe that colleges and universities should be committed to the success of all their students and should encourage students to seek counseling when they feel depressed or overwhelmed or otherwise have mental health needs.  To that end, we work to ensure that all students, whether they are in Kindergarten through 12th grade, or if they are attending college or university, have they services and supports they need to be successful.

Read more about our K-12 Work | Learn more about Campus Mental Health

Children in Grades K to 12

Schools should help all children–including children with mental health needs–become successful adults who can hold jobs, live independently, and be engaged in their communities. To accomplish this, schools must set ambitious academic goals for all children and provide them the support they need to succeed. In our view, such support should not require enrollment in special education.

Federal law requires that children receive mental health services when needed for school success. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that mental health services be provided to children with “emotional disturbances” when necessary for them to succeed in school. The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program of Medicaid requires that Medicaid-eligible children receive mental health services, including school-based services, when needed to “ameliorate or cure” their condition. Required services include social skills training, mentoring, behavioral aides, family psychoeducation, family therapy, and, for adolescents, supported employment services. Unfortunately, many schools do not provide these services and rely solely on medications and office-based counseling, which alone are usually inadequate to meet the needs of children with significant disorders. Many schools also inappropriately rely on seclusion and restraint in the absence of adequate services. Schools have also tried zero tolerance policies and corporal punishment to improve behavior, but neither has been effective in teaching social skills and maintaining a positive school climate, and both raise significant civil rights concerns.

Like all of society, schools should be inclusive. Children with disabilities should be educated in classrooms with their non-disabled peers and they should participate fully in school life. With appropriate services and supports, virtually all children can be integrated into schools in their own communities. To be effective, schools must offer a safe environment conducive to learning. School-wide positive behavior supports (SPBS) are effective in creating such an environment. SPBS creates a climate that builds on students’ capabilities and promotes success—a climate where students are rewarded for good behaviors and are therefore more likely to stay in school, achieve academically, and graduate.

FEATURED CASES & ADVOCACY

Doe v. Pasadena
DOE v. PASADENA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Bazelon Center and its co-counsel filed a class action complaint on behalf of students with mental health needs who are segregated in a separate school in Pasadena, CA.

Read More »

SKADDEN FELLOW ALICE ABROKWA
SKADDEN FELLOW ALICE ABROKWA

Alice Abrokwa discusses her Skadden Fellowship at the Bazelon Center, including the case of a young client.

Watch here »

 

KATIE A. v. BONTA
KATIE A. v. BONTA

This lawsuit challenges the longstanding practice of confining abused and neglected children in costly hospitals and large group homes instead of providing mental health services that would enable them to stay in their own homes and communities.

Read More »

FUTURE

The Bazelon Center will work to end the practice of isolating children with behavior-related disabilities in separate buildings and classrooms and ensure that all the resources and support they need to be successfully integrated into regular classrooms. The Bazelon Center will also work to shut down the “school-to-prison pipeline” and end the systematic criminalization of students who live with disabilities.

Strategies

Developing cases that focus on setting new precedents to interpret the IDEA unequivocally to require appropriate services in neighborhood schools for children with mental disabilities; and to apply the ADA to public school systems, under the law’s requirement that public entities provide equal opportunity to children and adults with disabilities in the most appropriate integrated setting.

RESOURCES

PUBLICATIONS

  • Way to Go – School Successes for Children with Mental Health Care Needs (2006)
    • Fact Sheet #1 – Why States and Communities Should Implement School-Wide Positive Behavior Support Integrated with Mental Health
    • Fact Sheet #2 – Positive Behavior Support: What It Is and Why It Works
    • Fact Sheet #3 – Effective Mental Health Services Integrated in Schools: What Works
    • Fact Sheet #4 – Families: A Critical Role in PBS Integrated with Mental Health
    • Fact Sheet #5 – Making Strides at the State Level: Policies for Implementation of School-Wide PBS Integrated with Mental Health
    • Checklist for Advocates
  • Fact Sheet #6 – Making Strides at the Local Level: Policies for Implementation of School-Wide PBS Integrated with Mental Health

Campus Mental Health

The Bazelon Center believes that colleges and universities should be committed to the success of all their students and should encourage students to seek counseling when they feel depressed or overwhelmed or otherwise have mental health needs. Yet some schools lack comprehensive policies for responding to students with mental health issues or do so in discriminatory or punitive ways, requiring them to leave school or evicting them from college/university housing. Some charge students with disciplinary violations for suicidal gestures or thoughts. Such measures discourage students from seeking help. They isolate students from social and professional supports—friends and understanding counselors and teachers—at a time of crisis, increasing the risk of harm.

Schools often respond to students with mental health needs in ways that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, colleges and universities may not exclude students because of their mental health needs, except when the student cannot meet academic and behavioral standards even with treatment and other help. In addition, schools must provide students with disabilities “reasonable accommodations” —modifications to normal rules and procedures that enable students to continue and succeed in higher education.

The Bazelon Center has created Supporting Students: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities to support students with mental health needs and to ensure that schools’ actions toward students are nondiscriminatory. The model was developed after consultation with mental health experts, higher education administrators, counselors and students.  We also offer a guide, developed by a group of young leaders, for students seeking help for mental health issues.