It’s important for adults in school settings to seek an understanding of what’s at the heart of unwanted behaviors in children at school. It’s easy to label a youth a trouble maker, but seeking appropriate alternatives to suspension, expulsion or arrest can often be just as effective while providing for more positive long-term outcomes. Many law enforcement agencies are adopting crisis intervention team training to teach officers how to recognize and deescalate situations involving people going through mental or emotional crisis.
The Center for Safer Schools wants to help reduce the so-called “school to prison pipeline” where school children are taken away from schools and sent into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Expulsions and arrests may not only deprive some children of normal opportunities for jobs and higher education later in life, but all too often result in their incarceration as adults.
The Center obtained a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission to work with professional mental health and law enforcement specialists to develop an 8-hour youth-specific program for SROs and other law enforcement officers who had completed the basic CIT training. This new program – Crisis Intervention Team-Youth – will focus on the types of emotional and mental health issues found in juveniles and ways to find the options best suited for diverting those youth in crisis from arrest and incarceration. CIT-Youth addresses such topics as child and adolescent trauma; childhood mental health disorders; spectrum disorders such as autism; suicide; crisis intervention; role plays; and local resources. Local management entities and managed care organizations will coordinate and conduct the CIT-Youth training program with officers in their areas who have completed general CIT training.
To the untrained eye, a youth may be seen as exhibiting rebellious, offensive, abusive or some other form of undesirable behavior. Officers with CIT and CIT-Youth training are equipped to recognize a potential mental or emotional crisis that might be better served through a community resource, for example. The ultimate goal is to get those young people in crisis the help and resources they need before they become another statistic in the system. CIT-Youth is a great example of how the Center for Safer Schools takes research and puts it into practical use in schools to create better long-term outcomes for both vulnerable youth and society at large.
For more information on CIT and its history, see: