Policing Mental Health in Our Schools and On Our Streets -- Better Paths Forward

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Phillip Kassel, J.D., Sarah Yousuf, J.D., Ivy Moody, J.D., and Matt Cregor, J.D.

Police are neither mental health professionals nor school disciplinarians, yet often serve in these roles. They respond both to adults undergoing mental health crises in communities and children who engage in adolescent behavior in schools. These interactions often do not go well, particularly when they involve persons of color.

MHLAC staff attorneys are engaged in campaigns to establish and uplift non-law enforcement models for reacting to mental health crises and, also, to remove police from schools. These efforts involve legislative, administrative, and community-based advocacy strategies and coalition work.

This workshop will cover:

  • The damaging impact of inappropriate police engagement in schools and communities on persons with mental health issues (e.g. arrests of students in schools and violence toward persons in crisis on city streets);
  • Promising legislative and community-based strategies to remove police from schools or replace those dispatched to scenes of mental health crises with more qualified persons;
  • Enacted reform of dispatch practices by use of “988” lines;
  • Controversy as to whether clients are better served by crisis responders who are police, social workers, or teams composed of both;
  • How legislation can be employed to circumscribe the scope of police officers’ roles, or even eliminate their presence entirely, in environments intended for learning;
  • How administrative and community-based advocacy can be employed to enforce legislation limiting the ambit of school policing; and,
  • Most promising practices and lessons learned in the move away from police and carceral approaches in both community and education environments.

    Workshop participants will come away with strategies that they can use in the pursuit of police-free schooling and in the promotion of promising, compassionate, alternative community-based crisis response models in the neighborhoods in which they advocate.