The National Pulse – Florida Seeks to Expand Ineffective Mental Health Screening in Schools

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In her recent article for the National Pulse, Dr. Effrem discusses the failings of mental health data collection surrounding recent school violence.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) held a conference to discuss how to expand school-based mental health that was attended by the state’s 67 superintendents as well as several legislators and agency heads.

Broward County Superintendent and FADSS president Robert Runcie led the meeting. Runcie was superintendent during the February 2018 shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Runcie and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel are under intense scrutiny for ignoring or downplaying violent acts and threats by many students, including shooter Nikolas Cruz.

School officials ignored multiple felonious threats that Cruz made to various students, despite reports of them to those officials. Teachers and other school staff all over the country have noted how unsafe schools have become since the trend of not reporting school violence based on race and disability status — an approach pioneered in Broward County — spread nationwide under the Obama administration. Also, as previously reported, Cruz was well known to the mental health system, having been in an alternative school due to behavior problems; had been medicated for ADHD; and was being treated for depression, possibly with medication, at the time of his crimes.

As in the Texas situation, mental health data mining is a big deal. Superintendents from small, rural counties were told that in order to keep the money spigot open, the outcomes data for their mental health programs is “essential.” What the superintendents and legislators do not understand is how subjective and inaccurate mental health data and surveys that pull students into these programs — particularly screening and social emotional learning (SEL) surveys, as well as universal behavioral modification and outcome data — can be. We have previously discussed the Columbia Teen Screen survey that was only correct about 16 percent of time in accurately finding teens that actually had mental health issues requiring follow-up (called the Positive Predictive Value or PPV). Another review showed that only two of nine commonly used depression screening scales had a PPV at fifty percent, or no better than a coin flip.

You may read the full article here.

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