From Kerry McDonald at Intellectual Takeout:
A worrying trend is emerging in schools across the country. With increasing regularity, school districts are tracking students’ mental health and raising flags if a screening shows something amiss.
Student mental health tracking is often framed in terms of safety or prevention, arguing that all kids should be screened to identify the few who could potentially serve as a danger to themselves or others. Last week, NPR reportedthat in Florida all students who registered for public school this fall were required to disclose their mental health history. Has the child ever seen a therapist? That information must be revealed as a condition of school registration.
This mental health tracking measure is part of the response to the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida last February that left 17 people dead. The high school where the shooting took place instituted heightened safety measures this school year, including 52 new security cameras, automatically locking classroom doors, and more armed guards.
Some of these enhanced security measures, as well as the mental health history disclosure, are not at the discretion of individual schools or districts. They are now Florida law. Troubled by the Parkland shooting, state lawmakers recently passed legislation requiring more armed guards at public schools and mandating mental health disclosures on public school registration forms. The new Florida statute spotlights the willingness of many citizens to give up personal liberty in exchange for an increase in perceived government security.
According to the NPR article, the Florida law is particularly concerning to parents with special needs children. One mom with a young child on the autism spectrum told NPR: “If you do say, ‘Yes, my child has seen a counselor or a therapist or a psychologist,’ what does the school then do with that?”