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Turning Teachers Into Psychotherapists Will Not Prevent School Shootings

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by Karen R. Effrem, MD at The National Pulse


In the rush to “do something” to respond to the horrific and tragic Parkland shooting in Florida, a Florida Senate committee considered bills on Monday that greatly expand mental screening and profiling of students, “harden” security at schools, fund more school resource officers, and arm teachers and others that volunteer and undergo extensive training and criminal background checks as well as a psychiatric evaluation. These were recommendations that came from three task forces put together by Governor Rick Scott that met last week.

The gun control debate and proposal to arm teachers dominated the discussion while the very dangerous and problematic mental health proposals went through unnoticed. These proposals include:

  • Training teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and intervene;
  • Increasing student mental screening to allegedly lessen problems for “at risk” students and decrease the amount of untreated mental illness; and
  • Increasing the number of mental health counselors and school psychologists in schools.

We have already written extensively in the context of social emotional learning about the problems of turning already over-burdened teachers into psychotherapists with a few hours of training when psychiatrists and psychologists are trained for years. And despite those years of training, there are many admissions from psychiatric experts and groups that psychiatric diagnostic standards are nebulous, especially for children, and that they are unable to accurately predict which people, even those with identified mental illness, will become violent.

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