A school responder model is not one single program or intervention. This framework entails leveraging existing resources and making policy and practice adjustments that were needed to respond appropriately and effectively to students with behavioral health needs exhibiting disruptive behavior(s). To support students with behavioral health programs, a successful school responder model requires the school and community to be highly aligned in an effective behavioral health response.
Rather than being about the implementation of a program, school responder models are about establishing new pathways to supports in the community for students with behavioral health conditions to receive the services they need. The culture shift that underlies the successful implementation of any school responder model is a change in the understanding and action of adults working with students who have traditionally been excluded from schools and sent to justice systems, and creating school-community alignment. In school-community alignment, students and their families are included as part of the community, and, together, an ecosystem supporting students with behavioral health conditions is created.
Among the ways to shift the culture in a school are through the creation of formal structures and policies. Training and ongoing booster sessions for professional development related to the school responder model also help to shift school culture over time. Ultimately, increased education and awareness, as well as changes in policies and practices are essential to changing culture and fostering school-community alignment. This paradigm shift also works to reduce inequity often experienced by youth with disabilities and youth of color. In addition, hiring staff who are in alignment with these practices is key, as is hiring staff who represent the community of students being served by the school.