School Discipline & Mental Health Supports

5 minute read

Mental Health icon. Simplified figure with a medical cross on its head.Our Position

In 2023, the legislature should increase opportunities for success for public school students with disabilities by protecting gains made over the last few sessions. These gains include strengthening school-based mental health supports and eliminating exclusionary disciplinary methods that harm students with disabilities and/ or mental health issues.

CTD urges the Legislature to:

CTD supports HB 773 (Allen), which prohibits schools from using early pick ups as disciplinary measures.

CTD supports HB 459 (Hull), which prohibits peace officers from restraining students younger than 10 years, unless they pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or another person.

The Latest

January 30, 2023: Read coverage of our press conference to Address Violent Restraint of Texas students in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

January 30, 2023: CTD and our partners held a Capitol press conference to Address Violent Restraint of Texas Student.

January 25, 2023: Texas Parents Ask Lawmakers to Take Action to End Harmful Student Restraint

June 15, 2022: The Texas Tribune reports that Almost 100 Texas school districts have added their own police departments since 2017, but not everyone feels safer.

Partners

Background

Youth with intellectual and / or developmental disabilities (ID / DD) are 3 times more likely to experience trauma and abuse than their peers without disabilities. Untreated trauma can place children at increased risk for further developmental delay. Unaddressed mental health conditions can impede academic success, impact social emotional well-being, and compound existing developmental delays. Children and youth with disabilities and/ or mental health challenges are often unidentified and do not have adequate access to or receive treatment. Lack of training in early childhood spaces, school mental health personnel shortages, inappropriate discipline practices, and an uncoordinated effort between schools and mental health systems all contribute to the lack of identification and mental health treatment.

As young children grow and transition into school, early trauma or unidentified/untreated mental health challenges can follow along. Right now, students are navigating an unprecedented time and toxic stress is emerging as a barrier to learning during an uncertain time. The trauma of COVID-19 has further highlighted a growing need for the Legislature to address early childhood mental health, behavioral and mental health supports in schools, and eliminating disproportionality in school discipline. In 2019, Texas took steps in the right direction by prioritizing mental health in schools, but came up short in addressing the unique needs of children and youth at the intersection of disability and mental health.

School discipline

Students with disabilities are more likely to be subjected to informal types of discipline that go undocumented, also known as “shadow discipline.” One of the most common practices reported by families and educators is the use of early pickups—essentially undocumented suspensions. Because these removals are not documented, parents often have to respond to truancy notices for excessive unexcused absences; schools circumvent the requirement to conduct manifestation determination reviews and instead, place the student in harsh disciplinary programs without due process. According to The Hechinger Report, "for many students, a shortened school day can last for months or even years, which can have a disastrous impact as they miss out on crucial academic, social and emotional learning time."

CTD supports the prohibition of this informal practice that removes students from school and reinforces challenging behaviors. CTD supports HB 773 (Allen), which prohibits schools from using early pick ups as disciplinary measures.

Learn more our work with the Minaret Foundation and the No Kids in Cuffs coalition to address policies guiding restraint of children in Texas public schools (13 minute video).

School-based mental health


Further Reading

@TXDisabilities