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.