Daily Archives: February 27, 2019

Schools Must Notify Both Pupils and Parents Twice a Year on How to Access Available Pupil Mental Health Services

Author: Eric Stevens, Attorney at Law

Summary:

With AB 2022 now in effect, schools of school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools are required to regularly notify pupils and their parents or guardians “on how to initiate access to available pupil mental health services on campus or in the community, or both.” To reduce the likelihood that this information is overlooked amidst the numerous annual notifications provided at the start of a school year, AB 2022 requires schools to provide this mental health services information at least twice a year by at least two different methods. The law is intended to help bridge the gap between the need for pupil mental health services and pupils’ lack of awareness of the available mental health resources, especially amongst youth in poverty or with non-English speaking parents.

Specifically, section 49428 was added to the Education Code, requiring a school to use multiple methods to inform both pupils and their parents or guardians each year.

At least two of the following methods must be used to notify parents or guardians:

(1) Distributing the information by hardcopy letter or email;
(2) Including the information in the parent handbook at the beginning of the school year; or
(3) Posting the information on the school’s web site or social media web page.

At least two of the following methods must be used to notify pupils:

(1) Distributing the information in a document or school publication electronically or in hardcopy;
(2) Including the information in pupil orientation materials at the beginning of the school year or in a pupil handbook; or
(3) Posting the information on the school’s web site or social media web page.

While posting the information online may be one of the required methods for contacting both pupils and parents/guardians, the law as written implies that the information should be posted on the website for a particular campus to the extent individual campuses have their own web sites.

Section 49428 does not specify what information should be provided “on how to initiate access” to available services, or on what services should be available “on campus or in the community, or both.” This provides schools with discretion and flexibility. For example, schools may wish to include information on how to request and schedule counseling appointments or how to request a special education evaluation if a parent believes his or her child may have a disability. If a school wishes to include information on third-party services available “in the community,” local county mental health departments can help identify such services and how pupils or parents can access them. When deciding what information to include in required notices, remember that the law is intended to raise awareness regarding available services, especially amongst youth in poverty or with non-English speaking parents.

To help implement section 49428, counties are explicitly authorized to grant Mental Health Services Act funds to school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools.