Friday, February 22, 2019

Check Yourself Middle School Mental Health Screening Tool - What SPS and King County Didn't Want You to Know

Continuing on with the story about the Check Yourself mental health screening tool for middle school students in the Puget Sound region.

King County is funding  this effort thru the Best Starts for Kids levy. Seattle Schools (as well as about eight other districts) is participating.

 I believe in helping middle schools students who may have mental health issues, big and small.  I'm glad King County wants to help districts help those students.

But the way this effort being cared out is wrong and, I believe, in some aspects, is being done illegally.

Again, I tell parents - do NOT allow your child to take this screener.  Period. 

Any parent who wants to know how to file a complaint with the Department of Education, 
I have an expert standing by who will be happy to help you. 

Here is my original story with a follow-up one.

Both SPS and King County seem to have chosen to be less-than-transparent AND have been trying to skirt the law, specifically, to keep parents from knowing about their child has been screened, both before it happened and after it happened.

As is usually the case, you learn the darndest things from public disclosure documents.  I am still waiting for my cache from King County but I spent three hours reading over the SPS cache yesterday.  I am also still waiting for the final signed contract and data sharing agreement.


- As late as October of 2018, the district had agreed to use Check Yourself even though King County had not finalized an Evaluation Plan nor did SPS have a DSA (data sharing agreement) in place with King County.

-  It is still unclear who is seeing what data.  I was initially told by King County that only the schools/districts could see individual data, both identified and de-identified but one email reveals that may not be the case.

Lisa Davidson on June 22nd wrote (she was the lead on this project but who is now out on maternity leave so it is unclear who the lead is now)::

The student data would be deidentified but reported individually to allow for analysis over time.

- I was also led to believe each student would get a unique identifier number but it appears not a new one but they will use their student ID from the district.  That's not as safe as it should be and I am quite surprised SPS would do this.

- From my email today to King County (italic is quotes from emails, this one from KC to SPS):

The Master File with student names and identifiers will be stored separately. Access will be limited to only those directly involved in the project.

And who is "directly involved in the project" because that could be a lot of people.

Deidentified data can be downloaded from the the backend of the system as Excel files and analyzed to share results more broadly.

Who would have access to those Excel files, now and in the future?

- Also, Kirsten Moore of King County said this:

To help interventionist find the right kid in the program intervention system, we are proposing requesting a list of student IDs, names, DOBs and student email (and maybe caregiver name and contact info) for all students in participating middle schools. This will allow us to pre-populate the intervention system and create a record for all eligible students.

Why would the "interventionists" need all the records of all students who participated? Some, if not most of those students, won't need intervention.

- Ms. Davidson writes to Maria Guizar at King County:

I would like to prevent principals from seeing individual student responses, both for student privacy and also to hopefully prevent it from becoming part of their student record (that parents could access up to 18).

SPS not only won't notify parents about this initiative in any meaningful way before their child takes the screener, they also want to prevent parents in the future from ever knowing it happened.  

Is it a goal of King County to prevent parents from knowing that their child took the Check Yourself screener? If so, why?

On this same topic, SPS's Lisa Davidson:

The screener results are not considered part of their educational record; they are private working notes of the counselor/specialist.

I put this in not to ask a question but to gently suggest that even with the legal term "working notes," this might not hold up in a court case. Also, any kind of medical testing done in a school, it seems to me, would fall into educational record.  That's my reading of FERPA but since SPS Legal refuses to discuss any of this with me, it's hard to say.

Again on this topic:

King County's Maria Guizar to Lisa Davidson:

I want to ask if you would be able to speak to the evaluations workgroup next week on November 8th about how Seattle school district is handling the screen not being part of the education record.

The way we are thinking of approaching this is by saying that the screen would be part of a MH service provided which would not fall under an educational record. We want to make sure that other districts that are moving forward on SBIRT work forward can support others that are on hold due to legality issues with FERPA.

 It would appear that King County was also actively trying to not have the screening be part of a student's educational record, at least in part so parents wouldn't know.

Ms. Davidson replies:

I can speak to it but please know that there is now a bit of disagreement on how to proceed. To address your suggested approach...that won't work for public school staff because FERPA trumps HIPAA for us.

I'll just note that I did convey this idea to King County but they continue to trumpet that Check Yourself is HIPAA compliant which is great but it doesn't matter in this use.

She finishes:
We are first and foremost education staff. Not mental health/SUD staff. At least that's what my legal office directs.

It is still unclear to me if a student taking the screener will find it in their educational record.  Maybe that's a good question for the Department of Education which has shown real interest in this issue.

I also want to note a trend in staff emails; "call me to discuss this."  That's pretty tantalizing but there is no way to access what is said.  And, I found out from an inside source, that some of the senior SPS staff have two phones, one SPS and one personal.  That way if they want to send a text about SPS business via a personal phone, it can't be accessed by the public.


Anonymous said...

District staff have been actively hiding their curriculum for sex ed and gender identity as well. They embedded transgender curriculum into the Black Lives Matter Week and did not tell parents about it.

If your child expresses a desire to be the opposite sex to a school counselor, will they take them to get life-altering hormones without parental notification? They already will treat the child as the opposite sex, with a new name, without telling the parents.

North Mom

Mandatory Reporters said...

So, if school employees are mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect, and this screener results in suspicions that a child believes they have been abused or neglected, is the mental health professsional evaluating the child required to report their suspicion to police.

So, a 7th grader might take the SBIRT in middle school and report something that a mandatory reporter believes suggests:
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Sexual Exploitation
Negligent Treatment

And the parent's rights could end up being terminated?

Alternatively, by claiming to screen and provide access to treatment for all students screened, does the district or county become liable for misdiagnoses or false negatives?

Anonymous said...

"There are no throwaway teachers!" Where did we hear this? I will tell you from a SPS regional director after a child was severely injured in a SPS class by a teacher! The school did not call 911 nor did the school call one of the parents. They tried to cover up the assault.

The school should have called 911 and reported the issue, MANDATORY REPORTERS my ass!

This story is very common.

Also did you know the union negotiated a condition in the teachers contract where teachers can remover documented incidents from their employee file?

Now the abusers want students to report on their parents.

SPS you are out of your collective minds and need to back off now.

Not Joking

Anonymous said...

I find this breach of privacy incredibly concerning.


Me Too said...

Students should report abuse by teachers and IAs and staff on the SBIRT.

Stuart J said...

This link states the other districts besides Seattle


Melissa Westbrook said...

Stuart, I've written that this is going on throughout the Puget Sound area. What's interesting is King County doesn't seem to care that parent engagement is being done differently, district to district.