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Florida Schools Requires Parents to Reveal the Mental Health of Their Children

Published: August 7, 2018
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Source: herald tribune

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Sounds good, right? But it’s the unintended consequences of the shared information that others are concerned about.

Buried amid the school security measures swiftly passed by the Florida Legislature in the wake of the shootings last February at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland is a mostly overlooked provision that requires parents or guardians registering a child for public school to disclose any mental health information in the prospective student’s past.

Sounds good, right? Having school officials made aware of a child dealing with mental health challenges means that the student and family can be connected to all available services, and school staff will be on alert to provide additional support. Who could argue with that?

As always, the devil lies in the details, which include everything from whether the person doing the registering will feel comfortable disclosing the information to how that sensitive information will be managed and shared. Those are questions that every school district in Florida is now grappling with.

Part of the problem is that the legislation does not distinctly define what information must be disclosed or how it is to be used, leaving open to interpretation what is enough, but not too much. Some districts, like Miami-Dade, are asking for a list of “each and every (mental health) service” a student has received; others are asking for specific dates, names of providers and diagnoses of everything from attention deficit disorder to anxiety issues.

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