Crossposted from the Best Starts for Kids Blog
Community voices backed by scientific research continue to reveal how traditional disciplinary methods and zero-tolerance policies widely utilized in our school systems do not truly support the long-term well-being and health of our youth. For our teens and young adults to succeed in the classroom and safely grow into adulthood, we must transition from a culture of discipline to support.
To assist our communities in this transition, we are beginning a pilot project led by School-Based Partnership program in partnership with Zero Youth Detention to conduct a School-Based Behavioral Health Diversion project that aims to intervene students with early signs of behavioral issues that could lead to discipline and suspension in schools. The goal is to reduce Black and Brown students’ disproportionate referral to the juvenile legal system and increase their connection to appropriate services.
Establishing this behavioral health intervention at two public schools – one middle school and one high school – will help our communities reengage youth in school, increase health and wellness, reduce disproportionate discipline, and lower substance use and mental health issues among youth of color in South King County.
We are excited to announce our two awardees:
- Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, working with Rainier Beach High School and Rainier Beach High School Based Health Center.
- SeaMar Community Health Centers in partnership with Mercer Middle School.
Both partners will work across the community of schoolteachers, school personnel, counselors, families, the Child wellbeing council, School based health staff, and probation officers to help our youth thrive. As they say, it takes a community to raise a child!
Youth will be screened for behavioral health needs (including mental and substance use disorders and traumatic exposure) and referred to treatment options as an alternative to discipline or suspension. Both awardees will work closely with existing SBHC behavioral and mental health providers to support other healthcare needs and follow-up with students to ensure recommended services are meeting student needs. They’ll also work closely with their partner school and the Child Well-Being Council that will be staffed by Zero Youth Detention.
The Council will help provide key investment strategies to help those most impacted in traditional school settings; expand on existing discipline alternatives that provide opportunities to help youth and families become more successful; institutionalize and systematize key investments that have a positive impact on the social determinants of health; and address functional gaps through culturally responsive services and relationships.
Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club plans to increase Rainier Beach High School students’ connections to appropriate services by partnering with the school and its teen health center alongside community partners to align services, fill gaps, and create a safety net of wraparound programming for students at risk for behavioral issues. They will partner with the high school to find opportunities to imbed youth voice and leadership throughout the school, and will develop a Youth Action Team made up of students most at risk for behavioral issues to advise the school administration on policies around discipline and suspension.
SeaMar will work with Mercer Middle School to provide a behavioral health intervention program to increases health and wellness, reduce disproportionate discipline, and decrease substance abuse and/or mental health needs of Black and Brown Students in South King County.