Student mental health bill signed into law
OKLAHOMA CITY – A press release from the state Senate communications staff this week said, “Schools will be better able to address the mental health needs of their students beginning this coming academic year following the signing of Senate Bill 626.”
The measure, by Senator David Bullard, R-Durant, and Representative Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, requires mental health facilities providing inpatient mental health care services for minors to share with parents the importance of informing their school about their students’ struggles and care received.
Bullard, a 15-year teacher, said the new law will help teachers and faculty be better prepared to meet the special needs of students in mental crisis and provide a safe and healthy environment for their success in the classroom.
“I am thrilled to get this much-needed piece of legislation across the finish line,” Bullard said.“For too long, we have thrown kids with mental struggles aside without a plan to provide them with the best educational environment possible to meet their special needs. This is a positive step in the right direction to ensure everyone, from the parents to the teachers to the student, is on the same page and has a plan to help that student in their transition back to the classroom and school.”
Prior to enrollment, S.B. 626 will allow a student’s parent or legal guardian to disclose if their child has received inpatient or emergency outpatient mental health services from a mental health facility in the last 24 months. If such health information is disclosed, designated school personnel will meet with the parent and representatives from the mental health facility to decide if any accommodations are needed. These meetings can be conducted in person or via teleconference or videoconference. All disclosures and subsequent handling of student personal health information or other related records must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
“I know from firsthand experience that our public schools often struggle to help children who have mental health needs, in part because the schools may be completely unaware of any concerns,” said Randleman, a clinical psychologist with over 30 years experience working with students across Oklahoma.”This bill will give schools more flexibility to work with the student and their parents to meet the student’s needs, so they can remain in school. I know Senate Bill 626 will make a significant difference in students’ lives.”
Senate Bill 626 cleared the House comfortably in late April on a 73-4 vote, with 23 members not voting (“excused”). The measure then moved through the upper chamber on 42-5 votes, with one member not voting.
Governor Kevin Stitt, the state’s chief executive, affixed his signature to the measure on May 11.
The new law will go into effect July 1, 2022.
Note: Pat McGuigan of The Oklahoma City Sentinel contributed to this report.