Mental health screenings for public school students are in the forefront of education changes across our nation. Connecticut has proposed a bill that would require mandatory mental health screenings for both public school and home school students.
The Newtown school shooting by Adam Lanza, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, has raised concerns and a call to action nation-wide in identifying mental health issues in children as early as possible.
Connecticut Bill 374 would impose mandatory mental health screenings not only for public school students, but also home school students. The bill does not propose any requirements for private school students.
The proposed bill would require all home schooled children ages 12, 14, and 17 to undergo a behavioral health assessment. It would require public school students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 to undergo the same behavioral health assessment.
The behavioral assessments would be conducted by an unspecified health care provider. The assessments would be mandatory and conducted even though there was no indication that the students had any behavioral problems. The results of the assessments, according to the proposed Bill SB-374, would only be disclosed to the child's parent or guardian, but the health care provider will be required to submit a form to the State Board of Education to verify that the student has received the mandatory assessment.
A national home school organization, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), has initiated a E-Alert for calls to defeat this Mental Health Assessment Bill.
The E-Alert states that according to the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, a state organization made up of the Department of Children and Families, Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and others, a behavioral health assessment is quite comprehensive and invasive. It includes a review of physical and mental health, intelligence, school performance, employment, level of function in different domains to include family situation and behavior in the community. They claim this proposed Senate Bill 374 could essentially authorize the state to conduct regular social services investigations of homeschooling families without any basis to do so.
A public hearing on this proposed bill is scheduled for Friday, March 8, at 11:00 a.m. The hearing is to be held in Beckham Hall at Wesleyan University at 55 Wyllys Avenue in Middletown, CT.
While this is happening in Connecticut, similar conversations are happening across the nation, including Rhode Island. Those opposing this bill are not against better access to mental health services, but are against the issue of mandatory screenings when there are no signs to do so.