Florida students will have to report if they’ve accessed mental health services

By  | 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Following the Parkland school shooting the Legislature sprung into action.

In addition to increasing funding for mental health screenings, part of a new law passed in the wake of the tragedy requires school districts to ask students to report if they’ve ever received mental health services.

The new reporting requirement is unique to Florida and has mental health advocates concerned.

Jane Johnson with the Florida Council for Community Mental Health says language in the law is vague, leaving many questions unanswered like what exactly needs to be reported.

“Some parents are afraid that putting that information on their child's record could impede them from getting into college or enlisting in the military,” said Johnson "I don't think either of those things are true, but there's a misunderstanding about what that information could do for a child.”

Another uncertainty is how will the information be used.

“We don't know why they want it so if we knew what the intent was it could help narrow down the types of information that need to be reported,” said Johnson.

The Department of Education hasn’t provided much guidance, saying in statements that the department is leaving decisions to local school districts.

When we tried asking Education Commissioner Pam Stewart about the issue, she declined.

Some mental health advocates are raising concerns the requirement could lead to children being stigmatized.

“There is a stigma so people think it's going to be looked down upon and kids could be judged. They don't know who will have access to that information,” said Johnson.

While awaiting clarification, some districts say they will include a single box on registration forms indicating whether students have received services.

Mental health advocates say they hope to work with lawmakers in the 2019 Legislative session to clarify the law.

Audrey Walton with the Department of Education released this statement Monday:

“The department is committed to ensuring we provide school districts with the information necessary to keep students safe while they are at school. Decisions on how parents report their child's mental health services are made at the local level.

The department has not provided guidance on 1006.07(1)(b). As a general practice, areas of statute the FDOE does not have written approved guidance, or authority to provide guidance, we encourage districts to work with their school board attorneys.”