Disrupting School-Justice Pathways for Youth with Behavioral Health Needs

October 9, 2017

Throughout the 1990s, the rise of zero-tolerance school discipline policies resulted in the widespread adoption of strict and mandatory responses for a large range of misbehavior in school. An unintended consequence of these policies and practices were youth with behavioral health needs put at an increased risk for exclusionary discipline and school-based arrests. Disabled students and those with behavioral health needs have been disproportionately impacted by this shift in policy and practice. Communities and states have recognized the need to address those with behavioral health needs, and have implemented a School Responder Model (SRM), which originally emerged from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network. SRMs are a multidisciplinary approach to responding to youth with behavioral health needs and have been shown to effectively divert those youth away from the juvenile justice system. This Technical Assistance Bulletin provides the steps necessary to implement a SRM and keep kids in school and out of court.