What is a School Responder Model?

Through collaboration with schools working to route students with behavioral health needs to treatment instead of discipline, the National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice facilitated the development of the school responder model, stemming from activities beginning in 2007 designed to identify and develop effective responses to the mental health needs of youth involved with the justice system. A school responder model is a framework that addresses youth behavioral health needs in response to school infractions. This framework is an alternative to exclusionary discipline and to law enforcement response, which are often the first step into the pathway to the juvenile justice system for youth with behavioral health conditions.  

In this alternative approach, school staff conduct mental health screenings with students, or otherwise establish a behavioral health response based on school capacity to have the screenings conducted by non-school staff. Following screening, those students who may need support for mental health, substance use, or trauma exposure are referred to clinical services for assessment, case planning, and service provision. Screening, which is part of behavioral health response implementation, is one core component of a school responder model. Other core components are cross-system collaboration, family and youth engagement, and the creation of formal structures and policies. Successful implementation of all four of these core components is necessary for adhering to the school responder model framework.     

School responder models aim to divert youth from justice system involvement and school suspension/expulsion when safe and possible by addressing the root causes of the student misbehavior and establishing alternative pathways to meet student needs. A successful school responder model will identify youth with behavioral health needs, improve their school performance, reduce their disproportionate referral to the juvenile justice system and exclusionary school discipline, while increasing their connection to appropriate clinical and community services.  


Strategies for Building Community-School Partnerships for Student Support [Video]

The School Responder Model Framework [Podcast] | Transcript [PDF]

Introducing The School Responder Model [Video] 

Disrupting School-Justice Pathways for Youth with Behavioral Health Needs [Publication]

The School Responder Model: Implementation and Results in Schenectady Schools [Video] 

Diverting Youth with Behavioral Needs from the School-Justice Pathway [Infographic] 

A Promising Practice to Foster Safety, Promote Supportive Environments, and Build Relationships: School Responder Models [Presentation] 

SBDI (The Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative) [Publication]

Addressing Student's Mental Health as an Alternative to Arrest: The CT School-Based Diversion Initiative [Video]