It happens more often than people realize.
A student in middle school starts behaving disruptively in class. The teacher tries to manage the situation by balancing the young person’s needs with those of the other students, while maintaining a safe learning environment for all.
But the situation soon gets out of hand. It ends with the student being led out of the classroom, in handcuffs, by a school police officer.
In Texas, a recent report by Texans Care for Children and Texas Appleseed found that of the 72 school districts that supplied data from 2011 to 2015, officers arrested students 29,136 times and issued 41,304 tickets or complaints — overwhelmingly for low-level, school-based behaviors.
The Case for ChangeIt might sound like a cliché to say that teaching is a stressful job. But behind the cliché lies a grim reality: Overburdened teachers dealing with a variety of issues in the classroom, including unaddressed mental health needs, often resort to punitive measures that alienate kids from school and feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
This reality is the result of a failure to give teachers the resources and support they need to respond differently.
According to one systematic review, students who receive positive behavioral health interventions see improvements on a range of behaviors related to academic achievement.
This means not only better test scores and grade-point averages, but “increased on-task learning behavior, better time management, strengthened goal setting and problem solving skills, and decreased rates of absenteeism and suspensions.”
The evidence is clear. Addressing mental health in schools fosters a climate that is healthier for kids, more supportive of teachers, and lowers costs to the state — what we pay in dropouts and future incarceration — over the long run.
Just as there is a wealth of evidence for a relationship between behavioral health interventions and improved academic outcomes, there is also a wealth of evidence for the costs of doing things the usual way. Students who are expelled or suspended are up to 10 times as likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative attitudes about school or end up incarcerated as those who are not, according to a joint statement by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.