Mental Health

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012, many state policymakers have asked critical questions about school safety and violence prevention. States convened task forces and debated various policy issues to keep students safe during the 2013 legislative sessions. This session focused on evidence-based public policy reform in mental health, education and emergency response as a way to address these critical issues. Agenda topics included mental health issues such as screening, early diagnosis and treatment, and violence prevention in schools.

This Act requires two hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention as a requirement for the renewal of credentials of individuals employed in a middle school or high school in the state. The Act requires the Department of Education to develop training guidelines and materials to be used in local school districts.

Although bullying has long been a problem educators have faced, we are now seeing tragic results of taunting and bullying through social networking websites, text messages and other electronic means that were not available just a few years ago. School systems and state policymakers are beginning to look at measures to prevent cyberbullying and punish those who engage in it.

Zero tolerance policies mandate certain punishments for offenses at school regardless of the circumstances. But questions about how those policies are enforced are being raised due to the high number of minority students and students with disabilities that are suspended each year.

In the wake of campus violence, such as the mass killings at Virginia Tech in 2007, universities are grappling with how to identify students with mental illness and treat them. Doing so can also involve students' privacy rights.