Anne Swerlick
July 18, 2018

Troubling New Requirement in the School Safety Law

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

A troubling requirement is buried in a new law passed during the 2018 Florida legislative session in response to the Parkland school shooting. It specifies that at the time of initial registration for school, any “referrals to mental health services the student has had” must be reported. This is an extraordinarily broad and vague direction. Lots of questions remain unanswered, such as: who is going to get this very personal and sensitive information and what will they do with it?

Predictably, as recently reported in the Florida Phoenix, the new law is causing great concern and confusion among parents and educators. And no doubt, this requirement is and will be causing great angst among the brave and responsible students seeking mental health treatment. These students must be praised and rewarded for seeking help early to preferably resolve potentially dangerous situations.

Research shows that students prefer accessing these services through their schools, with some studies reporting that youth were 10 times more likely to use school-based mental health services compared to services provided in an outside setting.

Ironically, this new reporting provision is tucked into a law intended to increase school safety. But the impact could very well be the exact opposite.

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