Mental health screenings in schools plagued with controversy

school anxiety

Mental health screenings for students at public schools are not federally required, but some states and school districts have often become the norm, but with varying degrees of success. The a review of the policies of several school districts around the nation, the Associated Press found them to be inconsistent even at the district level, with different schools or states having very different policies in comparison to themselves and others.

In some schools, teachers for kids as young as kindergarten fill out mental health surveys on their students while in others, no screening is done at all. In some schools, surveys and assessments were once robust and are now flagging for lack of funding.

At the same time, administrators and lawmakers have little incentive to further the programs they do have in place due to the public outcry and intense debate that can follow. Although mental health issues often start in adolescence, the idea of screening in a public school setting has set many rights and privacy activists on edge.

The worry that children will be "labeled" or even accidentally misdiagnosed and then given incorrect or dangerous treatments are often brought up. These very real concerns are often augmented by worries that treatments may be made even without parental consent, which has triggered lawsuits and debate in similar instances where vaccinations or other medical treatments were given without parental consent. Others point out possible financial incentives that schools, districts, teachers, or social programs may have to over-diagnose.

The issues are complex and can have life-long effects for the children involved no matter which side of the debate one finds oneself on. It's a controversial and problematic issue, but it's one that many believe we need to address.


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