A Connecticut state legislator, who serves on a new bipartisan gun violence & children’s safety task force, has co-authored a bill that would require behavioral health assessments for school children.
The proposed Bill No. 374, which is co-authored by State Senator Toni H. Harp (D-New Haven) and State Representative Toni E. Walker (D-New Haven), was submitted as a news tip to the Big 3 News website.
It is currently under consideration by the Connecticut State Legislature’s Public Health Committee.
Harp is co-chair of one of three Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety working groups, which will look at gun violence prevention, school security evaluations, and mental health screening and services.
“So much of the gun violence we have witnessed is committed by troubled young people — we really must redouble our efforts to help adolescents with their unique developmental issues,” Senator Harp said recently. “Researchers are consistently learning more about brain development and the challenges some young adults face. We have to be sure all that new information becomes widely available so it can be useful.”
The bill would require public school students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, as well as home-schooled children aged 12, 14 and 17, to have “a confidential behavioral health assessment” conducted by a health care provider.
The results would only be disclosed to the child’s parent or guardian, but health care providers would be required to file appropriate paperwork supplied by the State Board of Education verifying that the child received the assessment.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a prominent home-schooling advocacy group, has spoken out against the proposed behavioral health assessments as action that would threaten parents’ home school freedom.
“Proposed Bill 374 would essentially authorize the state to conduct regular social services investigations of homeschooling families without any basis to do so,” said Dewitt T. Black, III, senior counsel at HSLDA. “This outrageous legislative proposal must be stopped in its tracks before it gains any momentum.”
Black went on to say that according to the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, a behavioral health assessment is comprehensive and invasive.
“It includes a review of physical and mental health, intelligence, school performance, employment, level of function in different domains including family situation, and behavior in the community.”
According to an NPR news report, Sandy Hook shooter school shooter Adam Lanza was home schooled for at least a few years
Harp’s Mental Health Services Working Group held a public hearing on Jan. 29 in Newtown, Connecticut — site of the Dec. 2012 Sandy Hook mass school shooting — to hear testimony from numerous state professionals, mental health experts, and members of the public.
During the hearing, it was emphasized that details of Lanza’s mental health record was unknown and Harp pointed out that any proposals by the task force shouldn’t add to the stigma of those suffering from mental health, or what she called “this very vulnerable population.”
“I learned yesterday from a doctor from Harvard that of all the gun violence, over half of the gun violence that leads to death is through suicide,” Harp noted. “There are about 20,000 suicides that come as a result of gun violence.”
“The lethality of guns is really a concern,” Harp continued. “Impulse control doesn’t stabilize in adults until 25. And if you think about guns, and how lethal they are, and impulse of young people between 15 and 25 which is where we see the largest suicides, it is a dangerous combination.”
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