Background and History

Since the 1980s, the rise of zero-tolerance policies and exclusionary discipline policies in response to incidents of student violence and misconduct resulted in an increase in law enforcement involvement in schools. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.[i] Widespread disproportionality in school disciplinary rates[ii],[iii],[iv] for students of color and students with disabilities contributes to the need for an alternative approach that reduces the likelihood of youth who may need behavioral health services to be involved in the justice system. 

The school responder model (SRM) evolved from the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative. Between 2007 and 2011, the National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice), in collaboration with the Foundation, coordinated an Action Network comprised of eight states (Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington [Models for Change states], Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, and Texas [selected additional states]). The Action Network was focused on developing and testing innovative and effective responses to the mental health needs of youth brought into the juvenile justice system. 

Over the course of the following decade, the effort expanded to support the dissemination of the innovations developed through the Action Network to 16 new states through a unique public-private partnership supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

In 2016, NCYOJ received funding as part of the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative to measure the effects and outcomes of school safety interventions and SRM implementation in eight schools across Louisiana and Michigan. 

SRMs are now self-operating in communities throughout Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. 

[i] Russell J. Skiba, Mariella I. Arredondo, and Natasha Williams, “More Than a Metaphor: The Contribution of Exclusionary Discipline to a School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Equity & Excellence in Education 47, no. 4 (October 2, 2014): 546–64, https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2014.958965.

[ii] Anthony A. Peguero and Zahra Shekarkhar, “Latino/a Student Misbehavior and School Punishment,” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 33, no. 1 (February 2011): 54–70, https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986310388021.3

[iii] Russell J. Skiba, Choong-Geun Chung, Megan Trachok, Timberly L. Baker, Adam Sheya, and Robin L. Hughes, “Parsing Disciplinary Disproportionality: Contributions of Infraction, Student, and School Characteristics to Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion,” American Educational Research Journal 51, no. 4 (August 2014): 640–70, https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831214541670.

[iv] Lauren M. Rhim and Shaini Kothari, Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools in 2015-2016: A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection, (New York: National Center for Special Education in Charters Schools, 2019), accessed January 14, 2020, https://www.ncsecs.org/top-10-resources/crdc-analysis.