School Safety, Discipline, & Mental Health Supports

3 minute read

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

In 2023, the Legislature had opportunities to support students with disabilities by building on gains made over the last few sessions. These included strengthening school-based mental health supports, reducing reliance on exclusionary discipline methods, and improving transparency within public schools.

While lawmakers slept on many of these opportunities, we are pleased they passed SB 133 (West), No Kids in Cuffs. This measure bans ban certain types of physical restraint, handcuffs, and the use of chemical irritants on students in 5th grade and below.

The Latest

June 2, 2023: Disability rights advocates celebrate passage of ‘no kids in cuffs’ bill

February, 2023: The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) adopted the following of our recommendations in their 2024-2025 Policy Recommendations Report to the 88th Texas Legislature:

January 30, 2023: CTD and our partners held a Capitol press conference to Address Violent Restraint of Texas Student (with captions in English and Spanish).



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.

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).

Further Reading