Though it seems implausible, it is still possible in 2016 for a public school student to be kicked out the classroom because of their disabilities. While a teacher would never throw out a student because he or she had a broken arm or other such ailment, when it comes to mental health, that’s an entirely different story.
Before modern science taught us better, people with mental health problems are treated like criminals and thrown into prisons. Only recently has society tried to stop the stigma around it. Studies show now that one in five youth experience some sort of severe mental illness. They can range from depression to bipolar disorders, all of which can cause students to have an irrational emotional outburst in the classroom. It is especially true for teenagers who are just entering the “real world” and face more responsibility than had before.
Overwhelming stress can cause young people to be isolated and allow time for mental illness to develop. Emotionally, some students feel a disconnection to everything around them, causing more isolation and continuing the cycle of worsening mental health. Many schools have zero tolerance policies which can inadvertently make outburst situations worse for the students and the school itself in the long term.
“No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness,” says Elyn Saks, Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at University of Southern California Gould Law School. The Sacramento Unified School District has taken the initiative to train staff and learn what are the early signs of mental illness and how best for staff to address it. Schools should be able to create environments which make student feels safe to come out and talk their problems openly if they need to.
The district has created a Facebook page for those who wish to learn more about creating a safe environment for students which you can find here.