Creating Alternatives to School-Justice Pathways

The School Responder Model (SRM) is a behavioral health response to school infractions that not only provides an alternative to calling law enforcement for student misbehavior but is designed to address the root causes of the behavior. In the SRM, a responder screens youth for behavioral health needs, which include mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and traumatic exposure, and subsequently connects at-risk youth to effective community-based behavioral health services. Applied correctly, the SRM will allow schools, using their existing resources, to identify youth with behavioral health needs, reduce their disproportionate referral to the juvenile justice system, and increase their connection to appropriate behavioral health services. The reduced use of justice system referral in SRM schools is grounded in a culture shift that underlies successful implementation of any SRM: There is a paradigm shift in the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of adults working with students who have traditionally been excluded from schools and sent to justice systems, shifting from disciplinary and punitive to preventative and restorative.

Four key components of the SRM include cross-system collaboration, family and youth engagement, creation and application of a behavioral health response, and the establishment of formal structures, policies, and procedures to codify the SRM efforts. These key components lend themselves to transforming the school environment and culture to better and more holistically address student misbehavior in a manner that supports school engagement and success. The SRM has been implemented in urban, suburban, and rural settings across the United States, including:

  • Connecticut
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin