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Assessing a school, justice, and behavioral health collaborative approach to improving school safety

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $2,985,543)

Statement of the Problem: Too often, when children display disruptive behaviors in schools, the school response does not address the underlying cause of the behavior (e.g., undiagnosed or untreated behavioral health needs). Many schools marginalize children with behavioral health conditions through exclusionary discipline policies that disrupt their education. Such policies constitute a fundamental shortcoming in any comprehensive school safety program.
Effective, non-exclusionary methods for responding to students with behavioral health conditions have been developed in response to this challenge. We propose to undertake a comprehensive research study to examine the impact of two of these intervention strategies—the School-Justice-Mental Health Collaborative (SJMHC) and Adolescent Mental Health Training for School Resource Officers (AMHT-SRO)—on promoting school climate and school safety.
This study will expand the evidence-base on approaches to school safety improvement through a full test of these two complimentary intervention strategies. The specific goals of the study are twofold—(1) to examine the program effects of the SJMHC and AMHT-SRO, both independently and collectively, on key outcome measures, and (2) to measure any differences in these outcomes due to local variations in critical service systems.
The proposed 42-month study will utilize a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods research design to measure the program effect on systems-level indicators across multiple domains: school (e.g., discipline, attendance); juvenile justice (e.g., arrest, adjudication); and, mental health services (e.g., emergency psychiatric services, referrals to community-based services). A process evaluation will be implemented to develop a better understanding of factors that facilitate community readiness to implement a collaborative, cross-systems approach to improving school safety. The study will include a cost-benefit analysis to compare differences in outcomes related to variations in service systems.
In partnership with 16 high schools—eight each in Louisiana and Michigan—and our program and research partners at Child Health and Development Institute and Louisiana State University’s Institute for Public Health and Justice, Policy Research Associates constructed four research groups for this study:
Intervention Group A: Schools will implement both SJMHC and AMHT-SRO (Louisiana=2; Michigan=2)
Intervention Group B: Schools will implement only SJMHC (Louisiana=2; Michigan=2)
Intervention Group C: Schools will implement only AMHT-SRO (Louisiana=2; Michigan=2) Control Group: Schools will not implement either intervention and will continue “as usual” (Louisiana=2; Michigan=2)

This proposed research will contribute to the knowledge base on effective and replicable alternatives to zero-tolerance policies that increase the safety of schools, improve their climate, and support positive outcomes for youth with behavioral health conditions. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 14, 2016