Online Program

Incorporating mental health into school discipline policy discussions: Case studies of two health impact assessments

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Celia Harris, MPH, Human Impact Partners, Oakland, CA
background/purpose: School discipline policy has a tremendous impact on school climate and youth mental health.  'Zero Tolerance' discipline policies enforce mandatory sentencing, leaving no room for administrators to exercise judgement based on context.  Alternative discipline policies that are gaining traction include Restorative Justice  and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support programs. This presentation offers findings from a Health-Impact-Assessment of the health and equity impact of all three school discipline policies on mental health and social determinants. 

methods:  In 2012 and 2014, the authors conducted Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) of discipline policies in four Cailfornia school districts:  South Los Angeles, Oakland, Salinas and Merced. Mental health impacts were studied in both sets of HIAs.  Data sources included: literature review; analysis of national, state and district discipline databases; evaluation of parent surveys; focus groups with students and parents; and interviews with administrative staff.

findings:  School discipline policies contribute to mental health outcomes and alter social determinants of mental health (education status).  Zero Tolerance policies can lead to increased misbehavior and school drop-out rates, involvement with the criminal justice system and feelings of shame, anger, and lack of trust. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support and Restorative Justice tend to have a positive impact on mental health. Restorative Justice policies  boost skills such as relationship-building and conflict resolution.

implications: The mental health impact of school discipline resonated with stakeholders, including many students and parents, more than any other research areas in the two HIAs. The results of both sets of HIAs were used by Stakeholders to improve school climates by advocating for changes in their school discipline policies.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss how two health impact assessments of school discipline policies incorporated the topic of mental health, and the value of including mental health in the policy discussion

Keyword(s): Child/Adolescent Mental Health, School-Based Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I work for national organization that is a leader in the field of health impact assessment. I've conducted multiple health impact assessments on a variety of topics, including education policy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.